Friday 18 June 2021
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Onus on govt to cure health system

For a country which chronically lacks enough medical facilities, these are tell-tale signs of everything that is wrong in the public health system.
When Namibia became independent in 1990, Namibians were promised quality healthcare, a promise which is seemingly fading due to the ongoing economic crisis coupled with poor administration in the health sector.
With the recent spate of medicine shortage, public medical aid funds running dry, lack of medical equipment, lack of human resources, health minister Bernard Haufiku has a daunting task on his hands.
After all, the health and education ministries are said to be the toughest ministries because their impact is felt daily by the citizenry.
Haufiku will have to develop a thick skin to heal the critically ill public healthcare system. It will take more than visits to the regions to inspect health facilities to fix the system. He needs to use his experience from the private sector to transform the public sector.
With healthcare outcomes continuing to deteriorate rapidly, Haufiku needs to act fast.
As a result of the broken public health system, patients have resorted to bringing their own food and water to hospital in some cases, it is our hope that the system does not become so dire that our people are left with no choice but to take their own surgical instruments and drugs to hospital.
Private healthcare is unaffordable to most of the population, and with more than half of the Namibian population depending on public care, it is critical that the State health system is maintained responsibly.
Government has allowed the country’s health infrastructure to crumble, with fatal consequences for ordinary Namibians. Without regular reports on basic health indicators, assessment of the impact of the crisis is difficult.
But despite that, the full effect of the broken health system can already be felt by the poor who cannot afford private healthcare.
But amid the mounting alarm, some influential voices are calling not just for an urgent dose of cash but for a different operational attitude in the ministry overall, one that would revive the health system and trap the poor.
As we look for a lasting solution to the healthcare crisis, we must remember that healthcare funding is not the only difficulty, there are issues of management, corruption, accountability, ethics and so on. The main problem is healthcare is way down the political agenda, especially when its not election season. This is primarily why the health ministry is fighting a lonely battle to provide healthcare to Namibians.
The response to budgetary pressures in the context of the global economic crisis has not spared our health system, but it is time we learn to do more with less.
Concerns about the potential impact of the financial crisis on the ability of countries to achieve health system goals led the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Committee to adopt the 2009 resolution Health in times of global economic crisis.
Despite the financial squeeze, Treasury needs to remember that a decision to cut public spending on health in response to a fiscal constraint may undermine health system performance by reducing financial protection, creating or exacerbating inequities and worsening health outcomes.
There is a need to beware of superficially attractive solutions. For example, those based on greater use of market tools often fail to acknowledge the presence of significant market failures in health care and health insurance, which have to be addressed through regulation.

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