Nam health special fund underutilised
Windhoek – Although Namibia ranks among the best in health care in Africa, the need for quality medical services remains one of the biggest challenges.
Namibia provides affordable health care through public health facilities where, in most cases, medical specialists and equipment are in short supply.
Quality healthcare is available through private health institutions, which in most cases are affordable to those with access to medical aid schemes and for those who can afford it.
With high level of unemployment and poverty in the southern African state, the majority of the population has no access to private health care – hence the people are dependent on public health institutions.
This is one reason some Namibians with medical conditions that cannot be treated at local public hospitals turn to begging for financial assistance for possible medical treatment abroad. Many people with life-threatening medical conditions that cannot be treated locally such as heart diseases, and cervical and breast cancer turn to the media appealing for donations in order to get specialised medical treatment in neighbouring South Africa.
Many people have been begging unaware that the government has set up a special fund to help finance their treatments.
Health and Social Services Minister, Dr Richard Kamwi, has called on Namibians to desist from begging and make use of the ‘Ministerial Special Fund’.
He said the fund was established in 2009 to assist state patients with rare health conditions that cannot be treated at the country’s biggest health facility ‑ Windhoek Central Hospital.
The Minister revealed that the government commits R10 million to the account every year, adding that currently there is R12 million on the account waiting to assist those in need of specialised medical assistance.
Kamwi made the public revelation when he was responding to the questions regarding the administration of the little known Special Fund in the National Assembly recently.
The Minister confessed that his ministry has learnt that many people make public appeals for funds to help their family to get special treatment elsewhere because they are not aware of the existence of the special fund.
“I want to appeal to the public to start with the Ministerial Special Fund.
“The money is there for our state patients to access it. It is time that we make use of this fund than seeking for assistance from the public,” Dr Kamwi stressed.
The Minister called on all regional health directors and health practitioners to publicise and advise state patients accordingly by disseminating information so that people are aware of the special fund.
“I have observed that not all our medical practitioners, including the private doctors, are aware about the existence of the special fund, despite the fact that the permanent secretary (in Ministry of Health) has issued a circular to this effect.
“Thus, I urge all regional directors to see to it that information regarding this Fund is disseminated to all,” Dr Kamwi said.
Dr Kamwi further advised state patients with health problems of “whatever type to go to the nearest public health facility for references.
“If a patient presents him/herself to a clinic and the health workers at that clinic cannot treat the condition of that patient, they will refer the patient to a health centre or district hospital,” he explained.
“If the district hospital cannot treat the condition of the patient, the patient will be referred to the intermediate hospital.
“If that level is also unable to treat that patient, the next level is Windhoek Central Hospital and if that is also be unable to treat such a patient, specialists there will identify where the patient can be treated and at what cost.
“The specialists will then refer the patient to where he/she is going to be treated and at the same time apply for assistance from the Special Fund.”
Dr Kamwi said only specialists at Windhoek Central Hospital can apply for financial assistance from the Special Fund and no individual patient is allowed to apply to the Fund.
So far, 117 patients have benefited from the fund since May 2012, of which 63 patients were referred to different health facilities in Cape Town, South Africa.
They received medical treatment for various complications that cannot be treated locally due to lack of specialised personnel, while 35 patients were referred to Windhoek Kidney and Dialysis Centre for haemodialysis.
“The recent beneficiary is a baby that was born with four limbs. The baby was successfully operated in South Africa and is back in Namibia,” Dr Kamwi said. Four-month-old Andrew Palismwe underwent a nine-hour surgery at the Red Cross Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town to remove two legs below his stomach.
He was born on April 6, 2013, with four legs, a condition thought to be the result of a twin that does not fully develop.