World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti has stated that the biggest problem facing the Botswana health sector is shortage of personnel.
She said she realised this during her official visit to Botswana this week where she met Acting President Mokgweetsi Masisi and high powered delegation from Ministry of Health and Wellness comprising Minister Dorcas Makgato, her assistant Phillip Makgalemele and Permanent Secretary Shenaaz El-Halabi. According to the first female WHO Regional Director who is also a first native Motswana to occupy the lucrative and influential international position, Botswana hospitals and clinics are capacitated by few personnel.
“I think the biggest challenge that I have identified is that of a few capacity or lack of enough personnel in the health sector,” she told Weekend Post on the sideline, shortly after press conference in Gaborone this week. She highlighted that this notwithstanding that Botswana is still a country that imports a significant number of health care workers. “We have gaps in the number of doctors and number of nurses because we are a country with small population with a highest numbers of people who need health services,” she told this publication.
She admitted that there are also many other doctors and nurses flying out of the country for greener pastures particularly to the United Kingdom (UK). In light of those going out for greener pastures she pointed out: “Yes I am aware of that” while adding that it is a serious challenge although “it should be looked into a context of a country’s economic situation.” She said brain drain as it is called is also a challenge and she thinks government is working towards different ways to addressing the issue particularly with regard to the departure of some local specialists that have been trained locally and abroad.
“So these things like remuneration constantly needs to be considered, in terms of how you can retain your people, how can you motivate them, and things like the pay rise. They need to come up with ways to retain the health workers and improve their conditions of service,” the WHO representative highlighted. On his part, the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) President Obonolo Rahube echoed the WHO Regional Director’s sentiments that the biggest problem in the country’s health sector remains lack of adequate staff in clinics and hospitals.
He said there is burden of patients as nurses’ patient ratio is very high. “Yes I can confirm that we have a serious issue of lack of personnel in our health facilities. Our main issue is that we have approximately 1000 vacancy positions and also that we have only 300 graduates who are now roaming the streets but could be filling the positions but it’s not happening,” Rahube said. He stressed to this publication that “we believe that these nurses should be absorbed into the market because of the already burden of nurses patient ration.” He also pointed out that nurses are no longer progressing to higher scales.
To justify this he said “nurses start the profession on C4 or C3 salary bands and then they move to C1 as per parallel progression. But then from there, they become stagnant and rarely move to the next notch. This notwithstanding that there are posts in the ministry and are not filled as we pointed out.” However when commenting on the matter on behalf of government, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of health and Wellness, Shenaaz El-Halabi confirmed the shortage of personnel in the health facilities although downplaying the magnitude of the issue.
“Absolutely, we have a shortage of Human Resource. But sometimes it is not so much of shortage sometimes it is a misconception. But don’t get me wrong, there are genuine cases where we have shortage but sometimes it is how we utilise staff that is there,” the PS told Weekend Post past the same press briefing. So, she added that they have been working on workload assessment in terms of ideally how many people they should be having in a certain area (health facility). In terms of the personnel, she insisted that Shortage of staff is a challenge throughout the world (and Botswana is not an exception).
“So we continue to train, our medical school is there to train, our Institute of Health Sciences there as well and others on specialization. We also work on our strategies to make sure that they are able to attract and retain staff that is there.” The Ministry of Health and Permanent Secretary also revealed that they are working on strategies to improve nurses’ salaries and conditions of service to attract and retain them in the profession which will also address the issue of limited staff in which some depart for good paying countries.
“The good news is that we are also working on attraction and retention strategy. We are working on a new strategy that we have submitted to Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) as we have identified areas that we believe we can actually strengthen to be able to address this issue of retention of staff.” El-Halabi explained that there are number of issues that they will be looking at such as remuneration of health workers so that they don’t go out for greener pastures, and issues of pay structure. “Minister also mentioned this before at a parliamentary committee on supplies that there is need to look at our remuneration package for our health workers.”
On facilities she said she is aware they are congested and that there is need to work towards de-congesting them. “That’s why we have an amazing project that just started on de congesting Princess Marina Hospital. We have started decongesting the maternity wing at the hospital. Not everybody that is delivered in Marina needs to be delivered there. We have maternity clinics across the country. Now they are asked to deliver in other clinics where there is maternity ward other than Marina. Mid wives deliver them. In the event of emergency they can be refereed to Marina. So since this initiative we have seen congestion decreasing.”
She also said as a ministry they also need the nurses to multi task (multi skilling) so that they are able to consult, prescribe and dispense medication (treatment) including on HIV/AIDS. This is essential particularly as we have limited number of nurses and doctors, she highlighted. Some patients have had to die and others continue to die at the hands of doctors and nurses at health facilities across the country because of congestion and lack of adequate staffing.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.