27 December 2012

Zambia: Hospitals' Facelift Welcome News

THE assurance by Health Minister Joseph Kasonde that the Government will put a facelift to the country's hospitals and other health institutions is an extremely important undertaking that will benefit majority Zambians who depend on Government hospitals for health services.

It is equally pleasing to hear that funds for the alignment of the Ministry of Health have already been released for, as Dr Dennis Mulenga says, this will translate into an increase in the functions of the ministry.

In fact, we are happy to hear that work on hospitals' facelift in some parts of the country is on schedule and is likely to be completed next year.

Since the Patriotic Front (PF) came into power, we have seen political commitment in the provision of health services to the Zambian people, which has seen an increase in the budgetary allocation to the health sector.

The increased funding has been directed towards the completion of several district hospitals, an exercise in which development partners such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Merck, a global healthcare company, have been involved.

This collaboration with development partners saw the launch of the Zambia Management and Leadership Academy with a mandate to equip healthcare workers with the knowledge and skills to lead and transform healthcare delivery in Zambia.

There is also a wide range of activities that seek to make health services safe, effective, patient-centred, timely, efficient, and equitable. All these are what the Zambian people want.

Working hand-in-hand with the Zambian Government, USAID recently recognised Chongwe and Chinyunyu communities in Lusaka Province for achieving their goals to prevent HIV, and award these communities with millions of Kwacha in community goods as an incentive to continue their outstanding work.

Some Chinese contractors have, meanwhile, been involved in the building and refurbishment of some district hospitals country-wide.

Given chance, Chinese contractors are known to be hard working and finish their works sometimes on time, if not before schedule.

Zambians are really expectant of good results from the ongoing construction of health centres, as well as the facelift being put to those that are already in existence.

Of course we are not so optimistic as to expect dramatic results over night from these developments. However, the amount of change these works are likely to achieve in each district will be felt.

For instance, construction of more district hospitals country-wide will drastically reduce the distances patients in remote parts of the country have had to travel to seek medical attention.

Refurbishing existing district hospitals will, meanwhile, create more space for the patients, many of whom are made to share small wards where they sleep on the floor on account of inadequate beds. More male and female wards, among other works, are expected to ease this problem.

These two developments have also one effect of decongesting hospitals in cities and towns, especially the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, which should be for only critical and complicated cases which could not be handled by staff in district hospitals.

Also needed in these refurbished hospitals are such works involving the construction of medium cost staff houses as well administration blocks, all of which will be an attraction for health workers.

And we expect the Ministry of Works, who are the supervisors for all Government infrastructural works, to ensure that good and quality works are done on the projects.

But besides building more hospitals and refurbishing the ones that are currently in existence, these health facilities will need staff to man them.

Currently, Zambia is faced with a critical shortage of health personnel, starting with doctors and clinical officers to the nursing staff.

The Government will certainly have to look for more of these professionals, who are critical for the efficient delivery of health services.

But for the decongestion of the referral UTH, for instance, to reach near-perfection, district hospitals need to be supplied with adequate medicines and diagnostic equipment.

The situation as it is, where critical cases referred to the UTH have to suffer inordinate delays of as long as six months is certainly unacceptable.

There must be provision for even some of the complicated cases to be attended to at rural district level.

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