RUNNING THE SHOW: Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Kolaatamo Malefho
The Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA), the only internationally accredited quality improvement and accreditation body for healthcare facilities based in Africa, has been for past four years trying to accredit Botswana hospitals, but with zero success.
Ministry of Health pays COHSASA P1 million for every visit they undertake to the country and this has been ongoing for 48 months. At one stage, Healthshare, a South African consulting company was engaged to do a baseline on accreditation, but it is not clear what became of its report which was handed to the permanent secretary, Kolaatamo Malefho.
The past 19 or so years have seen over 600 facilities throughout the continent enter the COHSASA programme to improve the quality and safety of the healthcare services they provide to patients, but the vast experience of this organisation has been short played by Botswana’s Ministry of Health. Several recommendations made towards the improvement of the health facilities in the country have been shoved under the carpet, and many believe poor decision making on spending is letting hospitals down.
“Through its integrated and system strengthening process, COHSASA assists a range of healthcare facilities in Southern Africa to meet and maintain quality standards. This range includes hospitals, clinics, general and family practitioners, rehabilitation centres, hospices and laundries with standards being developed for many other services. There is a strong focus on building capacity to help healthcare professionals measure themselves against the standards,” an extract from COHSASA website explains.
Strictly applied quality improvement methods can improve patient safety and the quality of care by identifying deficiencies, guiding interventions and monitoring progress. COHSASA's web-based information system identifies deficiencies and weaknesses in healthcare facilities and creates prioritised quality improvement plans to overcome them. The data generated helps authorities to provide cost-effective interventions. The Ministry of Health officials were asked questions below and did not respond to our questionnaire which was with them for seven days:
For how long has COSASSA been engaged in the accreditation process of local hospitals?
How much has the Ministry spent so far on COSASSA since the commencement of this task?
When do you expect them to finish the accreditation process?
What are the initial recommendations from COSASSA and what has been your response?
Is it true that Healthshare was once engaged to do the same job and their recommendations were ignored and COSASSA was engaged instead?
How many hospitals are on the verge of accreditation so far?
Do the impediments to accreditation have much to do with hospital administration or are they much dependent on actions and decisions by the Ministry of Health eg hospital staffing, shortage of equipment…etc
Healthshare report was sent to hospitals and it became clear to hospital managements around the country that the recommendations were far beyond their mandates. They opined that the Ministry of Health headquarters was based placed to act on the recommendations since their bordered more on budgetary issues. Instead on acting on those recommendations, the Ministry officials chose to engage another organisation, COHSASA to do a baseline on accreditation.
With hospitals there were a number of recommendations which could have helped improve the status, among some of the issues raised were poor maintanance, shortage of health and support staff, overcrowding, lack of resources and equipment, among others challenges.
The report also noted that health in Botswana is too centralised, with all decisions coming from Ministry headquarters. The top down approach has led to situations where hospital management can’t even make basic decisions on recruitment without a word from the permanent secretary. C band and cadres above are all hired from the Ministry headquarters. Hospital management can only hire those on A and B bands, and these posts are frozen to date.
PRINCESS MARINA DOWNGRADED The Princess Marina Referral hospital was at one stage graded to 78 percent by COHSASA but only to be downgraded the following because of its deteriorating status. The hospital has a bed capacity of 565 but on average it admits 750 patients, which far exceeds its capacity without any additional resources or staffing provided.
The issue has been raised with the Ministry of Health but to no avail, health workers at the hospital have in the past indicated that the resources are stretched at Marina. The overcrowding affects staff-patient ratio while dragging down the patient care as well.
WeekendPost has established that Princess Marina has no isolation ward, where it can keep infectious patients; instead the isolation ward was handed over to the Spinalis section at the instruction of permanent secretary Kolaatamo Malefho. This publication has also established that infectious cases are taken to private wards. “If patients at Marina were litigious people, they would sue almost every day,” said a Medical Officer at the hospital.
Princess Marina Hospital responds
What is the bed capacity of Princess Marina Hospital? Bed capacity is 567
On average how many patients do you admit at the hospital? Average 750
How often do you have a mismatch between bed capacity and admission figures? During the year Princess Marina Hospital experience about 750 bed occupancy against the 567 official bed capacity. Usually during the festive season most people go to their home villages and the hospital experiences lower patient volumes with an average occupancy of about 450, so it’s usually less hectic during festive season but the services go on as usual.
Does the much talked about overcrowding have impact on patient/nurse ratio? Yes the ratio increase leading to increased workload for nurses.
What measures do you put in place when the hospital is stretched in terms of resources? The hospital has relocated some of its services to the nearby facilities as follows;
Princess Marina Hospital has relocated some of its services to the nearby facilities. For example Eye Clinic and Open Heart Surgery services as well as stable neonates (premature babies) has been relocated to Scottish Livingstone Hospital. Princess Marina Hospital has also relocated the diabetic clinic to block 6 clinic.
We have also introduced block booking whereby patients see doctors on appointment- for Out Patient Department Clinics e.g. gynaecologist, ENT(Ear Nose and Throat) Clinc, surgical and oncology among others.
In addition to that, PMH has also outsourced a 24hrs laundry service so that healthcare workers can concentrate on their core duties.
Rumatology Services (Joints) patients are seen at Extension 2 Clinics on Fridays and on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons at PMH.
Dermatology (Skin condition patients) Services has been relocated to Broadhurst 3 Clinic. Patients are attended at Princess Marina Hospital on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays only. So basically by relocating these we are trying to decongest the hospital.
What is the capacity of Marina’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU)? Is it adequate for the load Marina is currently experiencing? PMH has an 8 bedded Intensive Care Unit and definitely it is not adequate looking at our patient volumes. Some of our patients are transferred to Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole. We also outsource ICU services at Bokamoso and Gaborone Private Hospitals.
Does Princess Marina Hospital has an Isolation ward? If no, where do you house infectious patients? We don’t have an isolation ward however we have isolation rooms for infectious disease patients.
Is it true that the Isolation ward was handed to Spinalis section in 2012? Yes it is true that it was handed over to Spinalis to cater for the rising road traffic accident injuries. We will continue to priorities our facilities where necessary.
Are you involved in the budgeting process for the hospital? Is it need and output based? PMH is involved in budgeting, and yes it is need and out based but with the country not out of the recession yet, we cannot get all that we need. Ministry of Health is however very supportive.
Does the hospital management do any recruitment of health workers such as nurses and medical officers or all is done by the Ministry of Health? No, we don’t do recruitment however we present our human resource needs and submit to Ministry of Health who in turn does the recruitment.
Are you happy with the morale of the health workers in your hospital? Yes we are happy with our staff morale however we feel we need to do more in terms of staff welfare issues. We are currently planning award ceremonies to reward high performance culture, we also have staff welfare committee which looks into the welfare of our employees, and we have staff sports games to improve fitness of our employees and bonding. We really thank our staff for working very hard under the current working conditions.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”