The cost of the district hospital: a case study in Malawi

A J Mills, J Kapalamula, S Chisimbi
Bulletin of the World Health Organization 1993, 71 (3): 329-39
Described in an analysis of the cost to the Ministry of Health of providing district health services in Malawi, with particular emphasis on the district hospital. District resource allocation patterns were assessed by carefully disaggregating district costs by level of care and hospital department. A strikingly low proportion of district recurrent costs was absorbed by salaries and wages (27-39%, depending on the district) and a surprisingly high proportion by medical supplies (24-37%). The most expensive cost centre in the hospital was the pharmacy. A total of 27-39% of total recurrent costs were spent outside the hospital and 61-73% on hospital services. The secondary care services absorbed 40-58% of district recurrent costs. Unit costs by hospital department varied considerably by district, with one hospital being consistently the most expensive and another the cheapest. A total of 3-10 new outpatients could be treated for the average cost of 1 inpatient-day, while 34-55 could be treated for the average cost of 1 inpatient. The efficiency of hospital operations, the scope for redistributing resources districtwide, and the costing methodology are discussed.

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