The Botswana Occupational Therapy Association (BOTA) is wondering what part of Occupational Therapy services is worth 15%?
BOTA is protesting the government’s decision to award them 15 percent as scarce skills allowance, saying it is not adequate to attract and retain patriotic Occupational Therapists. They emphasize that their skills are very scarce in Botswana and are in demand internationally. BOTA is demanding that they be given a 40 percent increase.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, the Association revealed that there are only 20 Occupational Therapists in the whole country, one in the Ministry of Education, covering the whole country and only two in two private English Medium Primary Schools.
“There are no occupational therapists in prisons and no occupational therapy service in Local Government Councils. These vital services are offered in the major referral public hospitals.
BOTA also revealed that Debswana Occupational Therapy services are limited and that 45 percent of Occupational Therapists in the Public Service are expatriates.
In recent years, BOTA said their service has been under mounting pressure to meet the heightened need for services, owing to the increased awareness of the occupational therapists’ role. They said it is often an embarrassing situation when clients have had access to Occupational Therapy services elsewhere only to find occupational therapy services in Botswana being offered sporadically.
While Government has provided better treatment for both communicable and non communicable diseases, BOTA feels that a gap still exists between addressing the environmental barriers as well as matching the work demands to the functional ability of an individual for a dignified community re-integration.
“Our services are delivered to the Botswana community on behalf of Government. Accordingly, it is only fair that Government reaction reflect the current status and the real need for comprehensive service delivery,” said the Association. BOTA feels that Botswana is under serving the nation. According to BOTA, the current occupational therapy staffing level of patient/therapist ratio which is 1: 100,000 out of a population of close to 2 million with only twenty occupational therapists is illegal.
They outlined the critical areas of Occupational Therapy that Government has overlooked.
These include Community Based Rehabilitation (except for the limited services offered by Occupational Therapists based at (Cheshire Foundation Of Botswana), transition between acute care in hospitals and Long term care, Rehabilitation in Prisons, Occupational Therapy services in Botswana Defense Force, School-based Occupational Therapy, Home care, Palliative care, Mental Health Rehabilitation within the community, Wellness programs, Industrial Rehabilitation, Retirement planning, and Vocational Rehabilitation, which includes sheltered employment, Hospice and, lastly, acute care services except in the major Referral hospitals.
Currently, BOTA said that those who do not get referred to the major referral hospitals do not get consistent occupational therapy services, save for those who are sporadically served through the Airborne out reach services.
While government does not recognize the magnitude of the scarcity of occupational therapy services, BOTA highlighted that these efforts indirectly thwart the Department of Student Placement and Welfare endevours to recruit students into this noble and under staffed profession. As a result of this, MVA Fund also finds itself unable to provide coverage for comprehensive Rehabilitation Services to Road Traffic Accidents survivors given the high rate of accidents in Botswana. “The non recognition of occupational therapy as scarce also frustrates the Division of Special Education in its attempt to screen for early childhood and pre-school special needs, as well as provision of rehabilitative and remedial programs in the schools,” BOTA stated.
Currently, a considerable number of graduating citizen Occupational Therapists choose to remain and work in countries of training, wanting to return when it becomes evident that the difference in the two worlds is incomparable. This, says BOTA, creates a void in the continuity of service provision.
The BOTA President emphasized that it is not all about monetary gain, but the positive outcomes of occupational therapy services to Botswana!