Monday, September 21, 2020

Shortage of medical supplies blights our national reputation

For well over a year now, multitudes of outdoor patients have visited public health centers only to be turned away because there are no medical supplies.
The situation is more acute in the rural areas.

It is the poor who are the most vulnerable as they cannot afford the alternative offered by the private health care system.

Shortage of medical supplies only increases poverty as it means the sick are not getting well as to become productive and carry on with their lives.

While these shortages can only be explained in logistical terms (because Botswana certainly has the money to buy the supplies) the tragedy is that, if not contained, there is a real risk that the progress made so far in the fight against HIV/AIDS is likely to be undermined.

This is because HIV/AIDS is linked in one way or another to many of the diseases which, today, our public health system is not able to treat simply for lack of medical supplies.
We are of the view that this is a serious problem which should not be politicized.

The reason why Botswana has been able to beat other countries in its fight against HIV/AIDS is that, when faced with the scourge, all interests, including political parties, united against the scourge and successfully resisted the temptation to politicize the issue which would have led to a waste of time, not to speak of polarity and subsequent losses of life.
Last month, the Minister of Health made a statement to Parliament on the shortage of medical supplies.

We have read her statement.
We applaud the Minister for her candour and sincerity. We can only hope that the measures she talks about in there are put in place much quicker than is currently happening.

From our reading of her statement, this problem is much more serious to be left to the ministry to sort out on its own.
We call on President Ian Khama to pay special attention to the problem and form a temporary high level cabinet committee to deal with this problem until it is overcome.

Pretending the problem does not exist can only make matters worse.
It is no exaggeration to state that it is a blight on our principles and empathy that many of our citizens, including the old, cannot access some of their prescribed medication, including those drugs that are crucial to their lives.

Not long ago, there were complaints among the elderly in Mochudi that they could receive medication for diabetes from the government hospitals.
Instead, they were advised to visit private pharmaceuticals to buy such medication.

A good number of them simply could not afford private health care and, therefore, abandoned the prescriptions.
God knows what has happened to the lives and health of such people.

We use Mochudi only as an example.
The shortages run the entire length and breadth of this great nation.
This is why we think that rather than ridiculing the government and pointing out to this as a failure, we should, as a nation, rally behind government initiatives to remedy the situation.

We cannot emphasise hard enough the importance of restocking the Central Medical Stores with those medications that we hear are in short supply across the country.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting those supplies to reaching the people where they matter in the rural areas.

Not only will that restore the integrity of our public health care system, it will also do what should, by any measure, be the most important object of us all, saving our people’s lives.

One of the cornerstones of President Ian Khama’s roadmap is dignity.
It is difficult to see how people would attain dignity in their lives if they cannot receive proper medication that is necessary to help restore their health.

Once again, we think this is an important national issue that should not be politicized.
If anything, it should unite us.
We urge President Ian Khama to take it upon himself to see to it that he uses his powers to ensure that Botswana’s health system is saved from what, if not addressed, could be a slide towards eventual crumble.

We need not look further than just beyond our borders to see examples of crumbled and collapsed public health systems.

Botswana should not be allowed to go the same route.

Having firmly fought against a much bigger menace in the form of HIV/AIDS we sure can achieve this one.
We have political will and we have resources at out disposal.

All we need is to harness those structures that are needed and Botswana’s Public Health system will, in a short space of time, be restored to its former glorious heights.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.