Saturday, September 23, 2023

Botswana’s poor healthcare system

The Botswana Ministry of Health is once again under fire for the country’s increasingly poor healthcare system. Patients who cannot afford private healthcare are forced to wait for up to 24 months (two years) just to see a health specialist, according to a recent admission by the Ministry of Health to parliament.

Assistant Minister of Health Sethomo Lelatisitswe stated that patients’ waiting periods differ from specialty to specialty. Cataract surgery, gynecology, and urology are the specialties with the longest waiting periods for medical attention. Patients seeking ophthalmology (cataract surgery) must wait for 24 months, and these services are only available in two facilities, Sekgoma Referral hospital and Scottish Livingstone Hospital. Meanwhile, there are only three gynecologists across the country, leading to a 16-month waiting period for gynecology services. The waiting period for urology is 11 months.

When questioned by Selebi Phikwe West legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse, Lelatisitswe explained that the country has different waiting periods for different specialties. He attributed the long waiting periods to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the rescheduling of non-urgent medical cases and stopping non-emergency surgeries to reduce the spread of infection. This resulted in many patients waiting for long periods to see specialists. Lelatisitswe also mentioned patients with immediate complications due to COVID-19 infections, as well as those with long COVID-19 syndrome, as factors contributing to the backlog.

Currently, around 8555 patients are waiting for surgical specialties, according to Lelatisitswe. The Ministry of Health is currently working on a single digital interface to capture the exact number of patients using health services in Botswana. The Ministry also recently recruited specialists from Cuba, who arrived between December 2022 and January 2023.

Despite these efforts, the Ministry of Health is still struggling to address the long waiting periods and backlog of patients. The government is now looking to the private sector for assistance, with urgent cases being referred to private healthcare facilities to prevent complications. The Ministry is also finalizing logistics to engage private specialists to work within government health facilities.

However, the shortage of medication in public clinics and hospitals is also contributing to the country’s healthcare crisis. Earlier this year, the shortage of medication in public clinics and hospitals in Francistown, particularly for non-communicable diseases, led to at least three confirmed deaths. Patients suffering from diabetes and hypertension are particularly affected by the lack of medication. Botswana’s healthcare system seems to be in urgent need of improvement. The government has been asked to take immediate steps to address the long waiting periods, backlog of patients, and shortage of medication.


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