The Government of Botswana is having sleepless nights in responding to calls by the World Health Organization (WHO) to incorporate safe and effective traditional medicine into the primary health-care system as well as bring traditional healers into a legal framework.
What makes it difficult is the pollution of the practice by bogus traditional practitioners who claim supernatural powers and often than not put people’s lives in danger. Traditional medicine is mostly issued by traditional doctors who have become notorious for claiming the know-how and powers to cure ailments.
Efforts to curb this group and discourage communities not to rely on them have proved futile as traditional doctors still remain central to the culture of many Africans. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 per cent of people in Africa regularly seek their services.
The government in its efforts to curb these incidences decided to come up with a law that will look into these issues.
The proposed Bill seeks to address among other issues concerns that some healers claim to possess cures for various terminal ailments, among them HIV/AIDS. This will be addressed by a Council that will, among other things, authenticate the efficacy of herbal medicines.
Other concerns on the side of government are possible risks of cross infections through contaminated body piercing instruments and other means during traditional doctors’ treatment processes as well as the influx of foreign nationals claiming to be traditional doctors.
Traditional doctors through their Umbrella bodies have already made a promise to the government that they would refer infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis to medical doctors.
Weekendpost has established that the government is finding it difficult to address some of the issues including the definition of who is a traditional doctor. Some of the issues that make it difficult are rooted traditions that some traditional doctors claim to have inherited or have been taught the practice by their parents while some go for actual training and so forth.
The question of definition is expected to cause uproar once it is finalized. The bill also envisages referrals from one party to the other among many other issues.
Plans to involve and regulate traditional doctors emanated from a growing realization that it is possible for traditional and western practitioners to work together to improve patients’ well-being, especially when it comes to developing new medications, reporting new cases of contagious diseases and finding ways to ensure that patients stick to their prescribed treatments according to research.
Traditional doctors have in-depth knowledge of plant materials and their various curative powers. They use leaves, seeds, stems, bark or roots to treat symptoms. Most traditional healers are both herbalists and diviners, while some specialize in one aspect.
This healing system rose to popularity after the realization that Doctors trained in the Western sciences largely focus on the biomedical causes of disease, traditional beliefs take a more holistic approach.
Although traditional doctors are not officially recognized by government and still operate outside formal health structures, Batswana still consider them essential in their day to day lives. This has, in some instances, led to catastrophic incidences where some patients preferring traditional doctors disregard medical doctors’ advice and choose to take herbal medicines that have dangerous interactions with pharmaceuticals.
In 2002, WHO issued its first comprehensive guidelines to help countries such as Zimbabwe, develop policies to regulate traditional medicine. Zimbabwe is of the view that there is need for some standardization of operations and that people should be able to consult registered and licensed traditional healers at proper premises.
South Africa leads continental efforts to bring traditional healers into a legal framework. In early 2005, South African Parliament approved a law to recognize the country’s estimated 200,000 healers as health-service providers. It is understood that those registered would, for example, be allowed to prescribe sick leave and offer treatment for numerous conditions. Some hailed this as an important step in rooting out charlatans and protecting patients, but others saw it differently.
In a brief interview with Weekendpost, Medical Practitioners Group chairperson, Dr Gagoitsiwe Saleshando said they welcome the move by the Ministry. He added that the law will help in the exchange of ideas to move the health of the nation forward.
“However this must be done in a way that will not jeopardize the health of the nation by promoting anything that may be hazardous to people in the long run,” he warned.
Doctors for Life, which represents over a thousand health practitioners in South Africa, however is objected to the government’s plans to legitimize healers.
“Most of the medicines used by traditional practitioners have not been validated scientifically,” states Doctors for Life.
“Many people suffer because of the serious complications that arise due to the use of traditional medicines.” The group warned that such a law could open “a can of worms” of legal controversies and medical complications. They urged that remedies be thoroughly researched before approval.
Other medical practitioners point out that traditional healers, with or without the support of the law, are already providing services within communities. Bringing them within the primary-health fold would therefore help rather than hinder efforts to flush out harmful practices.
Research shows that in Tanzania, the Dar es Salaam-based Institute of Traditional Medicine has a pilot programme to test the efficacy of local herbs in helping reduce the severity of other illnesses often seen in HIV patients.
Herbalists, it is understood, are allowing the institute to evaluate the substances they use to treat patients. If scientists discover beneficial elements in the herbs, they purify them and determine what the proper dosage should be. This addresses a major concern that some people have with the way medicines have been prescribed by traditional healers. Some 25 herbalists are currently working with the institute.
The Minister of Health was unable to give this publication her comment saying she was still busy in a meeting.
Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng together with Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Elias Magosi, this week refused to name and shame the worst performing Ministries and to disclose the best performing Ministries since beginning of 12th parliament including the main reasons for underperformance.
Of late there have been a litany of complaints from both ends of the aisle with cabinet members accused of providing parliament with unsatisfactory responses to the questions posed. In fact for some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers a meeting with the ministers and party leadership is overdue to address their complaints. Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile is also not happy with ministers’ performance.
Bokamoso Private Hospital is battling a P10 million legal suit for a botched fibroids operation which resulted in a woman losing an entire womb and her prospects of bearing children left at zero.
The same suit has also befallen the Attorney General of Botswana who is representing the Ministry of Health and Wellness for their contributory negligence of having the unlawful removal of a patient, Goitsemang Magetse’s womb.
According to the court papers, Magetse says that sometimes in November 2019, she was diagnosed with fibroids at Marina Hospital where upon she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital to schedule an appointment for an operation to remove the fibroids, which she did.
Magetse continues that at the instance of one Dr Li Wang, the surgeon who performed the operation, and unknown to her, an operation to remove her whole womb was conducted instead. According to Magetse, it was only through a Marina Hospital regular check-up that she got to learn that her whole womb has been removed.
“At the while she was under the belief that only her fibroids have been removed. By doing so, the hospital has subjected itself to some serious delictual liability in that it performed a serious and life changing operation on patient who was under the belief that she was doing a completely different operation altogether. It thus came as a shock when our client learnt that her womb had been removed, without her consent,” said Magetse’s legal representatives, Kanjabanga and Associates in their summons.
The letter further says, “this is an infringement of our client‘s rights and this infringement has dire consequences on her to the extent that she can never bear children again”. ‘It is our instruction therefore, to claim as we hereby do, damages in the sum of BWP 10,000,000 (ten million Pula) for unlawful removal of client’s womb,” reads Kanjabanga Attorneys’ papers. The defendants are yet to respond to the plaintiff’s papers.
What are fibroids?
Fibroids are tumors made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue. They develop in the uterus. It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of women will develop fibroids in their lifetime — however, not everyone will develop symptoms or require treatment.
The most important characteristic of fibroids is that they’re almost always benign, or noncancerous. That said, some fibroids begin as cancer — but benign fibroids can’t become cancer. Cancerous fibroids are very rare. Because of this fact, it’s reasonable for women without symptoms to opt for observation rather than treatment.
Studies show that fibroids grow at different rates, even when a woman has more than one. They can range from the size of a pea to (occasionally) the size of a watermelon. Even if fibroids grow that large, we offer timely and effective treatment to provide relief.
The Alliance for Progressives (AP) President Ndaba Gaolathe has said that despite major accolades that Botswana continues to receive internationally with regard to the state of economy, the prospects for the future are imperilled.
Delivering his party Annual Policy Statement on Thursday, Gaolathe indicated that Botswana is in a state of do or die, and that the country’s economy is on a sick bed. With a major concern for poverty, Gaolathe pointed out that almost half of Botswana’s people are ravaged by or are about to sink into poverty. “Our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become,” he said.