18 January 2019

Zambia: Fewer Medical Cases Being Referred Abroad

THE modernisation of health facilities and improved capacity to handle complicated ailments in Zambia has led to a reduction in the evacuation of patients to other countries for specialist treatment by about 68 cases within one year.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Abel Kabalo said the evacuation of patients for specialist treatment to other countries reduced to 80 referred outside Zambia for advanced medical care in 2018 from 148 cases in 2017, resulting in the Government saving on resources.

Dr Kabalo said in an interview this week that Zambia had not reached a level where it could handle all complicated illnesses locally but the reduction in the number of evacuations was an indication that it was making steady progress towards attaining that feat.

"Yes, we still have a few more clients that have been referred out of the country but as you know Ministry of Health is working so hard to harmonise and improve health services that are being provided and this is work in progress," Dr Kabalo said.

Dr Kabalo said the progress recorded in handling complicated cases locally is evidenced by the historic and first-ever "knife-edge" interventions conducted like the successful separation of the Siamese twins, open and close heart surgeries and kidney transplant.

Dr Kabalo said evacuations for specialist medical treatment abroad were expected to continue reducing going forward as the Ministry of Health continued to build on its current competences.

The Government has been criticised by some sections of society for continued evacuation of patients needing specialist treatment abroad at a huge cost instead of building capacity of local health personnel and facilities.

Meanwhile, Dr Kabalo said Government, through the Ministry of Health started the process of dispatching medical attaches to Zambian foreign missions to act as ambassadors on health-related matters, with seven countries of destination identified so far.

The deployment of medical attaches would help Zambia stay abreast with the global trends in the health sector.

The move is also aimed at cutting down on costs in the wake of the austerity measures the Government had embarked on by ensuring that the medical attaches represented Zambia during health events in the countries of posting instead of sending officials from Zambia to attend.

Dr Kabalo said the attaches would be sent to America, China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Ethiopia to add to the one already deployed to Geneva, Switzerland.

"The ministry saw it fit that we needed to expand our representation especially in these regions that we deal with for purposes of ensuring that we are on top of things with the global trends in the health sector," Dr Kabalo said.

Dr Kabalo said the issue of attaches was not new to Zambia because other ministries like Defence and Education, among others, had their own envoys in other countries.

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