15 December 2012

Tanzania: Culture of Maintenance Lacking in Health Centres

THE support extended by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni municipalities is timely and highly appreciated by Tanzanians.

The Dar es Salaam Region which has over 4.5 million residents need such improved facilities in their areas. Looking at the location of the three health centres that were handed early this week to the government, they are all in strategic locations. To me it means that it will cut down the hours that a patient has to go to other hospitals located far from their residential areas.

There is no doubt that these facilities will help the majority of the people to get better medical attention, since their status have been elevated to offer better services. Since the three health centres; Mnazi Mmoja, Mbagala Rangitatu and Sinza were able to undergo capacity building for diagnostic service improvement, there is hope for many people in the areas.

This means that some of the medical cases which had to be transferred to other bigger hospitals will now be attended at these health centres. But it is even important to note that the support extended to Tanzania through KOICA by the government of Korea is a sign of growing trust and cooperation between the two countries. The celebrations to mark the successful completion of the project for the capacity building for diagnostic service improvement and the smooth operation of three health centres in Dar es Salaam took place smoothly and was graced by President Jakaya Kikwete and other dignitaries.

It is crystal clear that the continuous collaborative efforts between KOICA and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare should be promoted even further. KOICA, the agency responsible for grant aid programmes of the Government of the Republic of Korea has been implementing various development programmes in Tanzania since 1992. These programmes include the invitation of trainees of the Tanzanian government officials to Korea, whereby over 500 Tanzanians participated in the training in Korea including Masters Degree programmes and the dispatch of 'World Friends Korea' volunteers.

KOICA is also implementing various development projects in the areas of agriculture, health and education. But these health centres should be a model for improved services in the areas where they are operating. Those who are in charge should be ready to cultivate the culture of maintenance and proper handling of the facilities that were donated.

Medical improvement is holistic in the sense that even if you have the best doctors they will not be able to deliver the best services unless those facilities are available to support the medical personnel. It is not enough to think in terms of providing better environment of health and medical treatment in Tanzania. We need to take action in terms of proper handling of those facilities that are in place, including the ambulances which were donated recently.

There is no doubt that the top leadership of the country including President Jakaya Kikwete who was the chief guest at the handing over ceremony is highly committed to address health issues in the country. To demonstrate this commitment the president had taken this handing over exercise very seriously and so did the others in government.

The Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi was also present at the ceremony as well as Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Mr Meck Sadick, district Commissioners, municipal mayors, district medical officers for Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni. Anything has to have a tipping point, which in this particular case should start with accountability by those handling these facilities.

To me the medical personnel who are working in these three health centres ought to know that the message by the president was very clear that they should take these improved health centres seriously. It was enough for the president to appear at the ceremony and everybody to think that the precious time that the president has dedicated in the handing over exercise was to send a clear message - it is not business as usual. Why these strong feelings about our health centres?

It is because when such facilities are improved some people think it is an opportunity for them to misuse them. When we look back in 2010, KOICA had donated 4 ambulance vehicles to Mnazi Mmoja, Mbagala Rangitatu, Sinza and Londo (Lindi Rural) health centres as part of this project. The donation has been facilitating the work of the centres by helping them offer medical services to patients living in remote areas.

In addition, currently 7 out of 75 volunteers (World Friends Korea) who are serving in different places in Tanzania are working in these three health centres. They are not only supporting patients in the department of surgery, internal medicine, nursing and clinical pathology but also visiting and giving medical treatment to patients who have difficulty visiting health centres. We have to keep in mind that these volunteers will one day leave the centres.

The challenge ahead of our medical personnel and other workers in the health centres is to borrow a leaf from the volunteers in the way they forge ahead maintenance and ownership of such facilities. It is an open secret that some of us are very careless when it comes to public facilities. It is not the right time to point fingers, but experience has shown that such mishandling of facilities has cost the government so dearly. Let us do whatever we can to stop this anomaly.

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