Bots doctors in mass exodus
Gaborone – Botswana is losing a considerable number of doctors to other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states, and the government admits it is failing to retain them due to low salaries.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Kolaatamo Malefho, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this past week that two years ago, his ministry was forced to outsource the services of specialists to a private company because the government was struggling to retain or attract specialists due to low salaries it offered compared to that offered by the private sector and other neighbouring countries.
Malefho said they opted to pay the specialists through the private company since hiring them directly did not match the government salary structure.
“We cannot compete with the private sector and neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Namibia. The economy and the way we structure our salaries has proved to be problematic. Perhaps there has to be a way of de-linking from the normal pattern of government salary structure,” he said.
Malefho suggested that the government should consider training many locals as specialists to avoid relying on foreign specialists.
“Retaining specialists is not possible. The situation has not been any better even before the global economic meltdown. With erosion of salaries over time, it has become impossible to attract specialists,” he said.
The accounting officer was responding to a question from one of the committee members, Gilson Saleshando, who wanted to know what the government was doing to address mass exodus of specialists from its payroll.
Saleshando also expressed concern that the government was unable to retain these specialists because salaries were low but they were in great demand in the country.
Meanwhile, while addressing the same committee, Malefho touched on the issue of drug abuse in the country, which he said has been on the increase, especially in schools.
He said there is a significant increase in the number of people who use cocaine, mandrax, and marijuana.
“Those are serious problems and we have taken the initiative and launched a campaign to address the problem in all schools ‑ from primary to tertiary level to raise awareness,” he said.
Malefho appealed to the society to stand up against drugs, adding that police alone cannot win the fight against drug abuse without support from members of the public.
“Education on such issues has been integrated as part of the campaign and it is something that should be addressed nationally,” he said.
Malefho also confirmed a recent report in the media that alcohol intake in Botswana was very high.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) report that was cited in the local media about Botswana being a nation where there is binge drinking is true,” he said.
Malefho said efforts were underway to integrate the Infectious Diseases Control Clinic (IDCC) into other ordinary facilities to reduce stigma.
“The time has come to relook how we are dispensing ARVs. I think some time ago it was a good thing to have IDCC because there were large numbers of people on treatment and few staff. That is why we needed additional structures to cater for that,” he said.
Malefho added that “now that we have a majority of people or staff are competent to deal with HIV-related issues, I think there is need for integration of IDCC,” he said. The permanent secretary was to an inquiry from committee member, Kentse Rammidi, who sought to know if IDCC was not contributing to the HIV stigma.