Consolidation after a time of change


The work of Partners in Hope is supported by SIM Malawi project MW#96853 Medical Discipleship and Spiritual Ministry

The opening verse of Ecclesiastes 3 is very familiar: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV) In this, the first of four articles about Partners in Hope (PIH) Medical Centre in Lilongwe we look at some of the significant changes that have happened over the last couple of years and at a time of consolidation before more development takes place

Three executive directors, two medical directors, the end of one SIM Malawi project and the establishment of a new one. Those are just some of the changes that Partners in Hope Medical Centre has gone through in just the last two or three years, and this is why a period of consolidation, to allow these changes to bed in, would be welcomed at the centre.

“We have had a lot of transitions, even in the last 12 months,” said Dr Agnes Moses, Executive Director of PIH.

Dr Agnes Moses, Executive Director of PIH

“There have been transitions on the senior leadership team, transitions in staff, transitions in how we provide services. It has been a difficult time but a real learning period for PIH.

“In the last two years we have transitioned three Executive Directors and two Medical Directors, so it has been challenging, but we thank God that it has worked out well and I think the changes have been good for the organisation,” she said.

PIH Medical Centre is a Malawian non-profit organisation that was set up in 2004 by a SIM Malawi missionary. Its focus is on making a difference to those affected by HIV/AIDS and, since that time, it has grown to a busy medical centre which cares for around 14,000 patients with HIV per year.  PIH also runs the USAID supported programme, EQUIP, which is designed to enhance diagnosis and care of HIV/AIDS patients. Through the EQUIP programme PIH supports 102 health facilities  across Malawi

But it is not just personnel changes that have been dealt with at PIH; the way they operate and the services they provide have also seen some significant changes.

Dr H Sigauke was appointed as the Medical Director designate in November 2017 and took over the job full-time in March 2018. From the outset, one of his primary goals was to have PIH open 24 hours a day.

“I felt strongly that PIH should be available 24 hours a day,” said Dr Sigauke.

“We had a situation where patients in the ward were looked after 24 hours a day but if someone took ill overnight they might even be turned away from the centre by the security guards on the gate.

“It was my intention from minute one when I was appointed full-time that we have a full 24-hour service so whatever happens at 9.00am will also happen at 3.00am. It has not been easy to achieve. We have had to bring in locums to work in some areas and have had to go on to overtime working in others. If one of the locum doctors has a problem with which they cannot cope, then there is a PIH doctor on call who can come in and assist or take over the situation.

Ward rounds: Medical Director, Dr H Sigauke visiting a patient on the Dalitso Ward

“But it is not just the wards which are 24-hour. Our pharmacy and laboratory are also now geared up to work all the time, so that tests can be carried out and medication obtained by patients,” he said.

The third area of change in the last year has been the establishment of a new SIM Malawi project for PIH. The previous project, set up to allow the Centre to develop infrastructure, came to an end in 2017. The new project, MW#96853 Medical Discipleship and Spiritual Ministry, has been set up to look at how the spiritual life of both staff and patients can be enhanced.

Revd Joseph Chirwa has been Chaplain at PIH for just over a year. He sees his role as leading the spiritual ministry for staff and patients.

Chapel service: Revd Jospeh Chirwa leading one of the Chapel Services held on Wednesdays and Fridays

We consider the Gospel as part of the core business of Partners in Hope and we have a vibrant spiritual ministry where we have spiritual activities for the staff and for the patients. The new SIM Malawi project will help us to focus our efforts for both staff and patients.

In the second of our series of four articles, we will look at the medical side of PIH

“PIH is an interdenominational  Christian organisation and the work we do in this area, the training, the worship and so on, is all helping not only in spiritual development and discipling of people but also allowing God to unite us as a team,” he said.

The work of Partners in Hope is not restricted to the medical centre itself. Through Tigwirane Manja, Chichewa for ‘Let us Hold Hands’, communities in the catchment area around the Centre have regular access to education about HIV and AIDS. This is another area which has seen significant change in recent times.

One of the most significant changes has been the development of Community Support Groups of which there are now around 20 in total.

“The aim of the Community Support Groups is to give people, who are suffering from HIV/AIDS, a place where they can come together and share real-life experiences about living with the disease,” said Mwelura Harawa, Programme Co-ordinator for Tigwirane Manja.

“When someone is first diagnosed with HIV, they can feel as if they are the only people suffering from it, so having a place where they can meet others really helps. The support groups are also working with the local communities and their leaders to help break down the stigma and discrimination people affected by AIDS endure.

“One of the new developments we have introduced is setting up Income-Generating Activities to help the groups and individuals to raise money. We have people who have been farming and growing vegetables for some time, but recently we have helped some groups start pig rearing on a pilot project. We will monitor this and see how it goes, and if we can roll it out over a wider area,” he said.

Pig rearing Income-Generating ActivityMembers of the Mbuna Tigwirane Manja Support Group in front of their pig-rearing pen

After such a period of rapid change and development, some consolidation is now being considered, but by no means will PIH look to rest on its laurels.

“I see a period of stability settling in now because we have developed our Strategic Plan which will act as a road map to help us go forward,” said Dr Moses.

“Part of what we have put into the Strategic Plan is to diversify our resource mobilisations strategies. I am confident that this will go ahead because the expansion of the  services of the Medical Centre  is part of these strategies.

“Also, over the next two or so years, I see our spiritual ministry developing and growing and the Malawians who work here having more ownership of this part of our work.

I also see our medical work developing. We are already in the process of remodelling space at the Centre to be able to develop an operating theatre.

“I think I can say with some confidence that in two years’ time  PIH will be more self sustaining. We will be more stable medically, more stable financially and more stable spiritually, as we follow the road map of our four year  Strategic Plan.

Changing timesThere has been much change at Partners in Hope Medical Centre in Lilongwe over the last few years