Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Ministry of Health makes pitch for universal health care

Batswana may soon have access to world class health care without having to break the bank.

That is if Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MoH), Grace Muzila’s ambitious universal health care plan get government approval.

The health ministry has now made their case for universal health care (UHC) in Botswana, stressing that the issue is of high concern.

Speaking to scores of stakeholders at a panel discussion held under the theme “One Government Approach to Universal Health Coverage,” Muzila cited the tragic instances of people selling their fixed assets to pay for healthcare. “The cost of using health services should not put people at risk of financial harm,” she emphasised.

Universal health care means that everyone has access to the complete spectrum of high-quality healthcare services they require whenever and wherever they need them, without financial difficulties. It is predicated on the idea of providing health services to all residents, or just those who cannot afford them on their own, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes.

The panel discussion comes at a time when aggregated data conceals within-country disparities in service provision and inequalities continue to be a major obstacle for UHC. When asked about the potential of UHC failing due to financial issues, as it did in Kenya, she responded that the benefits in this case exceed the drawbacks and that they will strengthen the social determinants of health.

In an honest appraisal of the health ministry’s many difficulties, Muzila acknowledged that while medical facilities are available across Botswana, what is lacking are the services—a problem they are working around the clock to remedy. She said while 85 percent of the population live within a 5km radius from a health facility, “only 56 percent of the population get the service they need”. She made assurances that while “they are not doing very well” in terms of providing the services that people require at healthcare facilities, “they have a plan to improve.”

The Permanent Secretary also said the ministry learned from previous mistakes made in the 1980s and 1990s when it became preoccupied by the fight against HIV/AIDS and overlooked the importance of primary healthcare. However, she says they are “budgeting more for primary health care”.

Among other things, she raised concern that the ministry spends nearly a billion Pula on diseases that can be prevented. She said they are working on measures to lower this amount so that the money may be channelled to primary health care. While she recognised that more than 90% of the MoH’s budget goes to curative care, she stated that they are enhancing and strengthening the prevention structures. Furthermore, she said salaries account for P4 billion of the P10 billion budget.

For his part, minister of health, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, stated that his ministry is dedicated to studying the path toward universal health coverage, adding that the panel discussions are the first of many that would “set the tone for other discussions and public lectures that will follow.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), universal care “covers the full continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care across the life course.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper