Saturday, September 26, 2020

Patients left in limbo as health personnel leave in droves

The Botswana government’s health facilities are said to be facing collapse due to a mass exodus of health personnel from the public service to private health institutions, especially Bokamoso Private Hospital.

While the new hospital was expected to complement government’s health facilities, especially with the provision of specialized medical care, indications are that it has also provided additional headaches as health personnel are leaving in droves, lured by attractive salaries.

Reports reaching The Telegraph also indicate that some wards in public institution have been left unmanned because of staff shortage. In Botswana, there are not many who can afford the expensive private medical facilities, such that they depend on public health facilities. Botswana health personnel have in the past revealed that the patient to nurse ratio is as high as 30:1 instead of the internationally accepted standard of 10: 1, such that any resignations would be drastic, which may result in deaths due to limited patient care.

Ministry of Health Public Relations Officer Themba Sibanda confirmed that government continues to lose experienced personnel to BPH. Botswana Nurses Association Executive Secretary Geetha Feringa explained that the mass exodus of nurses is due to the search for greener pastures.

In the past, nurses and government clashed over scarce skills allowance. Government introduced scarce skills allowances for doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, laboratory technicians and radiographers, but excluded nurses.

At the height of the acrimony, nurses downed their tools, refusing to perform non nursing duties until government accedes to their demands. They argued that outside of providing primary health care, they are also performing duties like prescribing drugs, consulting patients and collecting blood. Patients were left in limbo as primary health care clinics were paralyzed.

To date, government continues to depend on the goodwill of expatriate medical staff from among others Cuba and China. To complement the shortage of medical staff, government has also expedited the training of medical students at the University of Botswana and abroad, while the University of Science and Technology is also expected to provide relief.

But as things stand, the situation is slowly becoming drastic, with reports from around the country indicating that a number of clinic and hospital wards have been left unmanned due to the mass resignations.

“Issues like accommodation and long working hours with insufficient remuneration have always soured working relations between government and health personnel. The new hospital offers attractive packages which are much more superior to what government offers,” said Sibanda.

“The scarce skill allowance can be terminated at any time and therefore leads to financial insecurity. Nurses who are skilled have left government as they were not covered by the scarce skill allowance and their wages are far below those of the expatriate officers,” he said in conclusion.

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