A medical expert at the Dar es salaam Ami Hospital, Ms Maria Garcia, shows how front line technologies about Same Day Surgery (SDS) and endoscopy work. The country needs more skilled manpower in the health care system. (Photo by Robert Okanda)
By ORTON KIISHWEKO, 15th December 2011 @ 15:13, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 3695
THROUGHOUT Africa, the shortage of trained medical personnel is hurting efforts to look after the sick and prevent illnesses. In 2006, Tanzania needed 82,300 skilled professionals in the health system to effectively take care of the population, yet only 29,000 were available.
According to the Programme Director of Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP), Dr Peter Mmbuji, the numbers indicate a shortfall of a whopping 65 per cent. Tanzania is not unique amongst African countries in its shortage of healthcare.
According to a 2004 paper by Amy Hagopian, of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, there were only 87 medical schools in the 47 nations of sub-Saharan Africa; 11 of those countries had no medical schools, and 24 had only one each.
To make matters worse quite a number of physicians from the African medical schools end up leaving the continent to seek higher-paying, less-frustrating jobs in the West. The area’s shortage of doctors — along with nurses and other health care personnel — contributes to the lack of quality health care for the continent’s one billion people.
In a bid to reduce the crisis in medical training, care, and health-related research, in Tanzania, the country adopted a programme model in 2008 in alignment with government strategy and policies to address the country’s shortage of skilled epidemiologists and public health managers.
The issue of low skilled manpower has also been under significant discussion during a five-day scientific conference held in Dar es Salaam recently. Addressing the conference, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said the lack of skilled manpower in health systems is a challenge for the continent.
Sharing the same concern is Dr Peter Botha ,the Chief Executive Officer at Ami Hospital situated in Masaki, Dar es Salaam whose institute plans to roll out its intellectual capacity to partner with public facilities within the country. Dr Botha notes that a private care and public sector synergy would be done on contractual basis.
Botha strongly believes that by using the capacity for other public hospitals in public healthcare, the cooperation will expand their efforts through their $2m project they currently handle. He said that for hospitals to consolidate their positions as medical hubs, they have to roll out their service wings, through their specialists for all those who need healthcare.
He said their centre at the Masaki peninsula commissions out screening and treatment technologies. “We have to recruit outstanding faculties from around the world, including Tanzanians who have been studying and practising within the country and abroad,” he said.
Dr Botha said they had adjusted their pricing to suit the market. Some of the technologies, he said, are same day surgeries where patients come in the morning and leave the same day. He said the vision of the hospital, which started in Dar es Salaam, is to establish 10 specialist hospitals across Africa.
The former trauma centre turned into a top range hospital, has a wide range of Tanzanians employed there. He said it will grow into a place where people who want to get quality specialists may go. At national level, Premier Pinda said that in tackling the emerging and re-emerging epidemics across the continent, African countries should revisit how they are faring in applying the Abuja Declaration passed 10 years ago.
He said that there is need to recall the Declaration by which Heads of State of African Union Countries pledged to set a target of allocating 15 per cent of the annual budgets to improve the health sector.
“It is now 10 years down the road, let us see how our countries are faring. Let’s assure ourselves of what we have done and what we have failed to accomplish. He said the field epidemiology and laboratory training programme aims at training public health workers to specialise knowledge and skills that are essential in strengthening public health systems.
He asked participants to seek solutions and share ideas on how to face up to the challenges and overcome barriers to the development of Africa. Tanzania adopted the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme in 2008 in alignment with policies to address the country’s shortage of skilled epidemiologists and public health managers.
In 1998, African countries adopted the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa Strategy on integrated Disease Surveillance to improve National Disease Surveillance and Public Health Response, but there have been challenges for many including Tanzania to implement the strategy.
Among the challenges, he said, is lack of adequate skilled personnel. “As a result, outbreaks are detected too late and control measures are far from effective leading to loss of many lives, ” he said.
According to the WHO 2009 reports, all 46 member states in Africa region reported at least one epidemic disease, with 33 countries including Tanzania reporting influenza, 20 reported cholera, 7 meningitis and 2 reported typhoid. The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Haji Mponda, said that in order to curtail epidemic diseases, African countries should build stronger capacities.
Mr Pinda said that prevention rather than sporadic fire fighting when these calamities do occur is critical, adding that there must be a pool of experts to manage the diseases. AFENET’s Executive Director Mr David Mukanga noted that until the 80s, most health professionals went overseas for a formal education in public health at any level. “One of the problems was that these professionals ended up staying in the countries where they were studying,” he said.
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