The new Junior Minister of Health & Wellness, Setlhomo Lelatisitswe has this week gone through baptism of fire from some opposition MPs who grilled him over the continuous deteriorating public health service, under his ministry’s watch.
Members of Parliament have expressed deep concern on how the country’s health quality continues to decay both at clinics and hospital level, describing the situation as shameful.
Fumbling to provide concrete answers while responding to questions in parliament on Wednesday, Lelatisitswe said his ministry is aware of the challenges that besiege the public health systems.
He pleaded with the MPs not be harsh on him as he has not been able to gather sufficient information on the follow up questions posed to him by MPs, saying he is still adapting to the ministerial role.
Selebi Phikwe West legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse had asked the minister of health to state the number of General Practitioners (GPs) in public and private hospital currently.
Keorapetse had also challenged the minister to indicate the number of specialist doctors, their areas of specialty amongst other anxieties, therefore opening an onslaught from the MPs.
The MPs pointed out that despite the large portion of budget is being allocated to the Ministry of Health currently led Dr Alfred Madigele; there is no sign of positivity in dealing with crisis besieging health sector.
Gaborone North MP Haskins Nkaigwa says Botswana has been plunged into a major health crisis indicating further that the country’s health system is in a big coma.
He regretted that there is still shortage of staff, medication in majority of the public hospitals and clinics across the country noting that the tragedy of this nature in these times is disturbing.
“There are serious problems with the local public health to be honest. We have emphasized as parliament that there should be full time resident doctors in the clinics that operates 24h\7 to counter shortage of specialized staff,” stressed outspoken Nkaigwa.
For his part, Selebi-Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse expressed concern over shortage of even single specialists in some major referral hospitals in regions citing Phikwe Hospital as an example.
He also noted that the Ministry seems not to be taking serious the issue of shortage of specialist medical practitioners which end up violating World Health Organisation (WHO) standards on doctor-population ratio.
According to Keorapetse, the 155 total number of local specialist is not efficient to provide the services on a large public health sector that is widespread across the country.
He also complained that hospital staff keeps patients waiting to be served for long hours adding that patients are given excuses like lack of bottles or drugs.
Ghanzi North MP Noah Salakae has challenged the government to train Batswana medical professionals on the pathology specialized field, regretting that there has never been one since independence.
Salakae is of the view that this does not create a good image of the health system and tourism in Botswana.
Responding to the MPs queries, Assistant Minister Lelatisitswe indicated that the ministry is on process of improving the situation of shortage resources of both human and medicinal.
He revealed that the total number of Batswana general practitioners is 744 with the total number of Batswana specialists amounting to 155, a figure which he admits to be lower.
Princess Marina shame
Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkaigwa has also blasted the government over the deplorable state of the Princess Marina Hospital, which is one of the main referrals.
According to Nkaigwa, it is a shame for the hospital to be still struggling to cope with the mounting pressure of staff and resources shortages, albeit its crucial center point role.
The hospital has begun to show the strain, as shortage of beds has in some instances force the patients to sleep in the floor, Nkaigwa has bemoaned.
The hospital, which was initially meant to be a main referral point district health posts south of the capital Gaborone, turned into a national referral hospital due to lack of special units countrywide.