Home » News » Comments »  The state of health care system is appalling

The state of health care system is appalling

Publishing Date : 11 June, 2019

Author :

One of the basic right which government should ensure that its citizens enjoy is access to quality health care. As the World Health Organisation (WHO) observes, “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.

The right to health for all people means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship. In our case, it sad that the state that the country found itself in is appalling. There is no debate about the appalling state of our health care system — politicians across political divide agree on this verity. But what is surprising is lack of action on the side of policymakers and legislators.

We have done well in the past in improving the health care system like building a number of primary hospitals and clinics throughout the country after independence. There was surely a commitment on the part of government, to roll out these services to the public. What has now become a problem, has been the ability to keep up with the growing population and health care needs that comes with such development. For stance; since independence, Botswana has only built two referral hospitals; Princess Marina Hospital and Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital.

However, the population of Botswana has almost tripled since independence, yet we have failed as a nation to measure to this requirement of building more tertiary health care facilities for the vast majority of citizens who cannot afford health insurances. The reality of the matter is that people are currently dying from illness they could have been cured, simply because the public health care system is unable to cope with the demand due to shortage of facilities, medical personnel and at worst unavailability of drugs.

Patients are put of waiting list for longer period of time in order to see doctors, yet in the interim, their medical situation deteriorates sometime to a point where they will never recover. Our government has allowed the country to have a caste system when it comes to health care, some section of our society, who cannot afford medical insurance enjoys better health care than the rest of the society. Those who do not have medical insurance are subjected to the failing public health care system.

We should agree as a nation that the public healthcare system is failing the vast majority of the populace especially the poor and the marginalised. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General last year said in a statement on Human Rights Day that:

“No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need. Good health is also clearly determined by other basic human rights including access to safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious foods, adequate housing, education and safe working conditions.”

What Botswana government should be doing, if it is unable to provide health care to its citizens through the public facilities it should forge a meaningful relationship with the private sector. Over the private sector have seen in the past decades in rise in number of private hospitals, mainly due to the fact the public have little faith that the public health care facilities would serve them better.

Countries like Sweden, Finland and other in Nordic region who are committed to equality, have ensured that each and every citizen of their countries are able to enjoy quality health care, whether using public or private health care. In an instance where government is not able to provide a particular service, or were patients are not happy with the service, the patients are allowed to pursue alternative medical attention in the private sector and government pays the bill.

This has come to be known as the ‘voucher system’, which does not only apply in health care provision but also in the education sector. Parents in Finland are allowed to remove their kids from public schools if they are not happy and take them to private schools, and government pays the bill through the voucher system.

In Botswana, perhaps time has arrived to consider this in our health care system, particularly because private hospitals seem to have some capacity to provide some services. Instead of putting patients on six months waiting list to see a doctor at Princess Marina Hospital, our system should allow government to refer patients to Bokamoso, Gaborone Private Hospital or any other private facility, and then government foots the bill.

The imminent opening of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital should be a welcome move, more so that, through it will operate as company, it is owned by the state. In this case, we are hoping government will not only be able to refer patients to this hospital but also hire specialists needed by the hospital of its calibre.

We have been training doctors for the world, and we are hoping as the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Madigele has promised, it will be a thing of the past. All Batswana doctors will serve Botswana at Sir Ketumile Hospital because we will be willing to pay them what they deserve and also ensure that we retain them in a long run.



Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?