Government Central Hospital located at the foot of the dramatic Zomba plateau in the old colonial town and ex-capital city, Zomba, which is in the Southern part of Malawi about an hour drive North of Blantyre. The hospital functions as a tertiary referral centre, receiving patients from district hospitals in the Eastern Region of Malawi, health centres within Zomba and self-referrals. Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre takes the most complex cases and is also the location of the country’s only medical school. The Zomba Central Hospital itself is made up of some old original buildings and some new government funded buildings, only some of which are in use.
The hospital has 4 main departments – surgery (including a male ward, female ward, clinic and 3 operating theatres), adult medicine (including male and female wards, male and female TB/isolation wards, a prison ward, medical clinic, HIV HAART clinic, staff clinic), paediatrics (including a medical paeds ward, a surgical paeds ward, a nutrition ward, a neonatal unit, a kangaroo baby care unit and the under 5s clinic), an eye clinic and Obs & Gynae (including a labour ward, prenatal ward, postnatal ward and gynae clinic). There is also a rudimentary lab and xray department. A little way down the road is Zomba Mental Hospital, Malawi’s only state run mental hospital.
There is no A&E department but Outpatient department where patients are able to visit the various clinics with and without referral.
The hospital has 3 Malawian medical doctors. Most of the other doctors are employed by the UN from other countries including DRC, Uganda, Holland, Canada etc. Each department only has one or two qualified doctors with most of the ward work/clinics/surgery being performed by clinical officers. Zomba is also home to the school of nursing.
The hospital has 500 beds, but the hospital runs at 2 times capacity with patients sharing beds/lying on the floor and under other beds, especially in paediatric wards.
The hospital encourages community surgery, i.e. they try to give capacity and training to the district hospital staff to try to enable them to manage cases, rather to refer on. Visiting surgeons would be encouraged to visit local district hospitals and provide training. They conduct medical health camps in the surrounding health centres and the high employment within the tea estates makes occupation health a priority.
General surgeons, together with Obs & Gynae. Elective students very welcome from any health profession.
The hospital is located approximately 1-1.5 hrs drive from the main airport near Blantyre and about 5-6hrs from Lilongwe. Zomba is well served for buses/minibuses as it is the 3rd biggest town in Malawi and is located on the main road between the 1st and 2nd biggest (Blantyre and Lilongwe).
Zomba has a range of lodges from budget to luxury. Alternatively there is very cheap accommodation available at the school of nursing right next to the hospital.
2-3 months is sufficient to get a feel for how the hospital works and the type of medicine they deal with. Length of stay will depend on the visitor but the hospital is very understaffed and appreciates as much time as people can afford.
A tourist visa is required for Malawi for UK visitors, but a temporary employment permit must be obtained for stays of more than three months. To find out more information, click on this link.
Nursing school accommodation contact: Nanzen Kaphagawaninanzenkaphagawani@yahoo.co.uk
I spent a short time working in Zomba Central Hospital. It does not have access too all the equipment that would be required and it experiences several power cuts each day, but these difficulties are more than made up for by the commitment and expertise of the amazing staff who work there. As a podiatry student, I worked with physio’s during several different clinics and learned a great deal about the difficulties faced by health care professionals in Africa compared to England. Zomba is a beautiful area and easy to get to by bus from Blantyre. I would love to return to work in Zomba Central Hospital and I would defiantly recommend it to other students.
I completed a 6 week medical elective at Zomba Central Hospital Feb-April 2012. It was the most amazing experience and everyone at the hospital was incredibly friendly. Malawi is a fabulous, welcoming country and ideal for anyone who wants to visit Africa for the first time. If you want loads of hands on experience and opportunities you just don’t get in the UK then Zomba is a great place to go – I got to deliver babies alone, perform minor surgery alone, and conduct paeds ward rounds alone. The hospital is happy for you to construct your elective anyway you fancy – I did 2 weeks of surgery, 2 weeks of O&G and 2 weeks of paeds.
We stayed in the nursing school and would deifintely recommend it – it is very basic with cold showers and regular power cuts but it is a great way of meeting local students and is very cheap and convenient for the hospital.
- Philippa Cory reviewed 3 months ago
- last edited 3 months ago
Zomba is a government run central hospital and I really enjoyed my 6 week elective there. There are a lot of issues that arise from working in a resource-poor setting where staff are seemingly not motivated to provide good care, but I had a great time as the Malawian people are so friendly and I was given a lot of responsibility.
The hospital let us organise our elective as we wished so although we spent the 6 weeks in the medical department we did also have time out to visit paediatrics, ITU and theatres. I’d advise bringing small hand gels, a pulse oximeter, thermometer and glucose test strips. We wore scrubs which was fine and very practical but all the staff wear smart clothes. Don’t expect a lot of communication from the hospital before you arrive, they are mostly concerned with receiving the hospital supervision and administration fee ($500 for 6 weeks) and registration with the Malawian Medical Council ($150). We organised the placement via the hospital director Mr Thom-Chisale (firstname.lastname@example.org). The medical department were not expecting us although this wasn’t really a problem.
It was shocking seeing the devastating effect that HIV has and how it complicates diagnosis and management. I was often the only staff member involved in cannulating and providing fluid resuscitation as well as palliative care to many patients who were emaciated and severely wasted.
We stayed in the nursing school accommodation which is a 2 minute walk from the hospital, however this is very basic. The cost was 1000 kwacha per night (£1.10) but we had to provide our own bedding, which we bought at the market the day after arriving. There were regular power cuts, very thin mattresses and limited water supply meaning showering was generally with a bucket of cold water. There are a few local shops and a market just behind the hospital where we ate regularly and brought food to make our own breakfast and lunch although we had no cooking facilities. The local nursing students made us very welcome but they are not quiet in the mornings and rise as all Malawians do with the sun at 5.30am! Zomba town is approximately 1.5km walk.
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