JournAIDS Dares Government On Public Health
Journalists Association Against AIDS (JournAIDS) has taken government to task over a myriad of challenges facing the citizenry in accessing health care in public health facilities.
The organization's Program Manager, Dingani Mithi, cited increased out of pocket payments where people are forced to buy essential medicines from private pharmacies due to shortage of the same in public health facilities.
Mithi added shortage of health workers is also compromising the delivery of quality health care.
"As far as universal health coverage is concerned, Malawi has got a long way to go because if you look into the health sector strategic plan for 2017-2022, government has made it very clear that they want the country to move towards universal health coverage but what we have come across in the health facilities we have visited as JournAIDS is not a good picture.
"We have discovered that access to medicines is quiet a big problem. People are paying money out of their pockets and if they do not have money it means they have to go into debts or even borrow money which is not a good case because ideally in a properly functioning health system, people don't have to be struggling financially to access health services but this is a reality," lamented Mithi.
Mithi added, "government should put in place good strategies in the strategic plan for the next five years, citing a health insurance scheme.
Ruth Misoya 23, a patient who spoke with Zodiak Online at Mbenje Health Centre on Tuesday, corroborated Mithi's concerns.
"Sometimes we go home without treatment due to shortage of medicines, this forces us to buy from private pharmacies. It's a challenge because due to financial insecurity we fail to access the drugs thereby endangering our lives.
"May government also address the problem of shortage of health workers, this is critical in ensuring speedy delivery of health services," lamented Ruth.
Ministry of Health Spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, acknowledged the concerns but was quick to say efforts are being made to address them.
"We have had a recruitment exercise last year and this year as well, we have been doing interviews and a good number of medics have been recruited to ensure that we lessen doctor-patient ratio, nurse- patient ratio or health worker -client ratio.
"We may not completely come to a level where WHO recommends due to issues of funding.
Chikumbe further said in health centers you will find that we have two nurses when actually u need 15 nurses and there are various cadres of health workers that we need to recruit so it depends on the funding available right now apart from ORT we are relying on global fund, so it depends but we would like to have more. Because if u only have two nurses if one nurse is off duty and the other is sick people will be affected, " said Chikumbe.
On issues of shortage of drugs, Chikumbe said the current set up where districts can only procure from Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) puts health facilities in a tricky situation in the event of shortage of the same there, it affects service delivery.
"In light of such challenges the district health offices can still purchase from private pharmacies a percentage of those that are not available," said Chikumbe.
According to Chikumbe in the long term, the Ministry of Health is revising procedures bordering on identification and delivery of medicines to CMST "to improve speed without compromising the standard procedure.
Meanwhile JournAIDS with support from Oxfam, is implementing a two-month media advocacy initiative called “Enhancing policy advocacy for access to medicines and universal health coverage in Malawi” aimed at holding Government accountable in the implementation of the 2017-2022 Health Sector Strategic Plan on access to medicines and supplies and Universal Health Coverage.
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