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.
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.”
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.