Government urged to revitalize, restructure Ministry of Health
Experts call for more local evidence based research
Community-stakeholder partnership key in health resuscitation
The two day joint Global Health Symposium co-hosted by tertiary health providers Boitekanelo College and the Institute of Development Management (IDM) has reflected on the continuous deteriorating health care especially the primary health care, with experts and scholars pleading for effective revival of the health sector in Botswana.
The symposium which was held under the theme “Global Health; Revitalizing Primary Health Care’’ had brought together scholars, health experts, policy makers, health care specialists from government level and parastatal such as the World Health Organization (WHO) in the global and primary health care was meant to develop and facilitate critical thinkers, leaders and researchers to create platform for building a resilient and effective health system that is in alignment with the global health context in which Botswana exists.
Delivering a keynote address during the official opening of the conference, the assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Moiseraele Goya said the symposium came at the right time where the health sector in Botswana is faced with a myriad of challenges of a global nature. Goya said one of the government's cornerstone strategies is to revitalize primary health care where the role of individuals, communities and the population at large in promoting health is going to be paramount.
He further underscored “the need for practitioners and leaders who are well equipped with knowledge and skills to make appropriate, timely and evidenced- based decisions to ensure health systems continue to be responsive to the needs of populations despite the challenges they face is very critical”. Goya also applauded Boitekanelo College and IDM for showing a solid commitment to support health systems and appreciated the presence of Proffessor Lucerno Prisno III, a renowned Public Health expert based in Xian Jiaotong –Liverpool University in China for having found it necessary to facilitate and share knowledge and expertise on how to revive crisis marred local health sector.
For his part, Professor Prisno III called on the local health professionals to conduct more evidence based research as a way of gathering factual outcomes which will be helpful in formulation of effective strategies and implementation to address the healthcare challenges.
Declining health Care
It is with no doubt that Primary Health care has been over the years and currently has been facing with a numerous challenges, which led to the poor health service provision in the country. Scholars, experts and policy makers took the symposium through studies and discussions showing that a lot still needs to be done in order to revolutionise Primary Health Care (PHC). The obstacles surrounding the effective implementation of the primary health care according to discussants include among others, weak coordination of implemented turnaround strategies, insufficient budget and lack of strong community –stakeholder partnership.
From the research perspective, Dr Onalenna Seitio Kgokgwe‘s study titled ‘’Primary Health Care in Botswana. What went wrong” revealed that Botswana used to have a strong primary health care system and this has declined over the years. The study findings show that the policy and structural shift in health care has resulted in a change of focus in primary health care.
Discussants pinpointed the need for restructuring, paradigm shift and reorganisation of provision of health services in the Ministry of Health as way to reshape primary health care in Botswana. Government was thus urged to facilitate more capacity building, especially at District Health Management Teams (DHMT) which are the cornerstone of primary health care. The MoH should consider upgrading health posts to improve service delivery.
Professor Lucerno Prisno III said government faces a lot of challenges in addressing health problems, either based on the current system of governance in administering or running primary health care system. "The Ministry of Health and Wellness in Botswana can look into conventions such as the Declaration of Alma Ata Primary Health Care conference of 1978 held in USSR (the present day Russia) to benchmark on how healthcare provision can be restructured and upgraded into a better model,’’ he added. He pointed that not only Botswana is plagued with challenges but particularly the rest of Sub- Saharan Africa region has issues of health problems.
Community participation is also viewed to be a key way to go in revitalising the primary health care as well as dealing with emerging rampant health issues within community level. Kgosi Pogiso Botlhole of Taung underscored that the community through bogosi leadership could play a critical role in addressing and consulting with the government to find amicable models of strengthening healthcare provision.
He reflected on the Francistown Health Pitso of 2012 that formulated strategies on which the community can tackle health issues such as the "CATCH" model meaning Community Acting Together to Control HIV has yielded positive outcomes. “The CATCH implementation model was mainly focusing on controlling the spread of HIV before, but it has been developed into curbing other social ills such as gender based violence, alcohol and drug abuse and teenage pregnancy which are threats to public health, charged Kgosi Botlhole.
He pleaded with stakeholders in healthcare provision to involve the community leaders such as dikgosi, who are better placed to identify threatening health issues and possibly stimulate action to address them at community level before further widespread.