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Govt cancels RSA referrals, saves P300 million

The Government through Ministry of Health and Wellness’s bold decision to stop referring patients to South Africa and Indian private hospitals will save government P300 million on annual bases, Minister Dr Alfred Madigele has revealed.

Madigele believes the government should take control of the referrals for specialised care and channel the resources in a strategic manner that grows both public and private sector capacity.  “We must prioritise supporting our private hospitals over external facilities. In partnership with our providers, we must devise concrete measures to curb abuse and wastage in billing for services,” he said before adding.


“We will save a lot of money. Initially we spent P300 million yearly but the contract with the middlemen who facilitated those referrals elapsed and we built our own which saved us a lot,” he said during his first ever media engagement since assuming office last year.
The reason why the government decided to scrap exporting patients to South African hospitals was due to exorbitant medical bills which bled the ministry purse and other challenges including negligence.

Government has been sending patients to these two countries for average and complicated surgeries. A whopping P 627 504 802 was spent on South African hospitals between 2014 and 2017 while the Indian hospitals gobbled P13 million from the ministry between 2015 and 2017. The decision to do away with international referrals has been on the pipeline since last year and it was catalysed by the opening of the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH).

“A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalize provision of super specialist services within Botswana. The hospital which is still on the first phase of commissioning and expected to open doors on the 24th of this month will offer a number of services including; paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy.

These and many others that the hospital will offer upon full commissioning have been cases that gobbled millions of pula from the government. Reasons to transfer patients to the international private facilities ranged from complicated cases, lack of proper equipment and infrastructure by the hospital. Flagship hospital Princess Marina is said to be lacking capacity in the three components to do the work with diligence.

This development follows the recommendations by the Deputy Director- Patient Care, Setso Setso who advised the ministry last year. “We have the capacity to carry out most of surgeries locally. We have specialists; I don’t know why we keep on referring patients outside, because it is costly. Referrals within a country have proven to be cheap,” he said then.

On the other hand cardiology mostly interventional paediatric and cardiothoracic surgeries costs R500 000 on average, with complicated cases ranging between R800 000- R1 million. A total of 87 patients were sent for examination on these cases last year. The government after sending 99 patients spent between R120 000 and R300 000 for normal vascular surgeries, while spending R800 00- R100 000 for complicated cases. For ophthalmology diseases especially retinal detachment, corneal transplant and diabetic retinopathy among others, 342 patients sent outside, the government was spending R1 200 for consultation with R62 500 for surgery per patient.

For laser treatment (few but high cost) where 36 patients were refereed outside, the ministry splashed between R120 000 and R400 000. All these according to Setso should be done locally if the government is to be financially prudent. “We should come up with a model to sustain what we have. Let’s purchase equipment so we can do these locally. We can also call the specialists to come and do those surgeries in Botswana.

We should also go the technological way, let’s have a tele-medicine where a nurse or a doctor can just look at the screen and prescribe to you which medicines you can take. This will save congestion in some facilities or going up and down to the hospitals as doctors in your locality will be able to read from far and give patient medicines,” he said.

The idea by Setso was warmly welcomed by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry Ruth Maphorisa and convinced the minister. “We should do things differently. We should change our attitude. “Let’s make our facilities function and stop going out, it is unnecessary at times. We can have a plan for the doctors that patients normally visit to come here regularly. Further we should have more specialists as a country let them go out for further training,” she said last year.

MEDICATION AVAILABILITY

The health ministry which has been on the media for wrong reasons owing to medication shortage has risen from slumber. The ministry is in the process of installing an electronic information management system (e-Pulse) through which a better forecast in medicine requirements is expected and will strengthen inventory management. The Ministry has further upgraded the position of Central Medical Stores Manager and has placed additional manpower with requisite skills and knowledge in supply chain.

MINISTRY CONSIDERS LEGALISING ABORTION

With many backstreet abortion reported in various health facilities, the ministry has taken a decision to seriously start conversation on legalising selective terminations. “The Ministry is considering having conversation around legalising selective abortions. This is because we record a number of unsafe abortions and we will have to turn that around,” said minister Madigele.


GOVT ENGAGES TRADITIONAL HEALERS  

Madigele also added that his ministry is on track to formally approach traditional healers to assist where there is a need, especially in mysterious diseases like the mass hysteria that befell Lempu CJSS, which caused numbness and weakness of the knees.
“Health is very broad subject and we want to engage them (traditional doctors). Medicines are plant based so we need to formalize synergies especially on Non Communicable Diseases and understand cultural beliefs and I believe it will mostly benefit patients if we collaborate.”

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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