Community Partnership Creates Cleaner Hospital in Malawi

The corridor floors of Salima District Hospital glisten in the afternoon sun and fresh air blows through sparkling clean windows—indications of the hospital's ranking as one of the cleanest in Malawi. Local newspaper clippings hang on message boards praising the hospital's new standards of cleanliness. One headline reads, “Salima District Hospital, Clean at Last!”

Today's accolades are a reminder of the hospital's progress. In the past, staff recall seeing trash, sugar cane peels, dirt, and grime throughout the halls and walls of the hospital, once reputed as one of Malawi's worst. Through MSH's Malawi Program, a new infection prevention initiative has begun in hospitals across the country. The Malawi Ministry of Health, MSH, and JHPIEGO are helping eight district hospitals throughout the country meet the new infection prevention standards set by the Ministry.

While the concept of infection prevention is simple, changing attitudes and awareness is a significant challenge. In a recent speech, Minister of Health Marjori Ngaunje referred to hospital-acquired infections as a major cause of patient morbidity and mortality. She urged all hospitals to adhere to strict infection prevention measures.

With MSH, Salima District Hospital assessed its obstacles to infection prevention and identified many challenges. For example, hospital staff did not have proper equipment or training to sanitize medical supplies; important protocols, such as proper waste disposal and equipment disinfection, were not in place; and patients and their guardians contributed to unsanitary conditions with behaviors such as littering.

MSH helped the Salima management team work with its staff and nearby communities to implement new protocols for infection prevention. Education sessions helped the community understand its role in keeping the hospital clean; and training programs helped staff incorporate activities that would support the hospital’s goal of becoming an infection-free facility into their daily routines.

The hard work is paying off. Salima recently received one of the highest score for cleanliness and infection prevention in all of Malawi, and the staff is committed to continuing this progress. Salima District Health Officer Florence Bwanali recalls that during the first months of implementation, staff felt unsupported. “Now the staff is willing to work because I make sure that the team is motivated,” she says. “Now all of us are very happy and this award is going to keep our morale high.”