Strengthen health service delivery, govt told

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Lijeng Ranooe

QUEEN Mamohato Memorial Hospital spokesperson, Mothepane Thahane, says the government should strengthen health service delivery in all the districts to reduce the number of referrals and prevent an accumulation of ‘extra services’ costs.

The extra services costs are weighing heavily on the national health budget with the government expected to cough-out, at least M124 million for extra services provided to 35 283 outpatients and 8196 inpatients in 2016.

In 2017, the government incurred extra services cost amounting to M108 million for 29 065 outpatients and 6811 inpatients.

In an interview this week, Ms Thahane said over the past few years, Queen Mamohato and its filter clinics based in Maseru, have been providing more services beyond the contractual agreement with the government.

The referral hospital and filter clinic, which are part of the Netcare private consortium, are supposed to provide health services to 20,000 inpatients and 310,000 outpatients per annum. However, each year the threshold is exceeded resulting in provision of extra services that require additional payments.

In view of this challenge, the government has suggested a review of the Public–Private -Partnership (PPP), initially signed in 2009? to replace the previous national referral hospital, Queen Elizabeth II (QE-II).

The primary goal of the agreement was to leverage private sector know-how and funding to construct a modern facility with better services and improved health care capacity.

The final PPP arrangement included both the construction and operation of QMMH and an adjacent gateway clinic and the refurbishment and operation of three Maseru-based filter clinics: Likotsi, Mabote, and Qoaling.

Ms Thahane agrees that in view of the experienced challenges, the contract should have been renegotiated.

“Unfortunately, the instability experienced in the government in the last six years and the constant change of ministers, have made it harder for us to bring them to speed on the progress and needs of the hospital and map a way forward.”

As a result, she said, some concerns have not been addressed, including the need to strengthen the primary health care delivery to prevent patients from unnecessarily travelling from the districts for services at Queen Mamohato.

“Patients would not always come here for simple procedures such as wound dressings if the clinics and hospitals in the districts were working effectively. The government should therefore look into enhancing the capacity of the health facilities in the districts to avoid paying for additional services provided at Queen Mamohato.

Ms Thahane also explained the hospital was also acting on accusations of negligence of patients, which has made the facility to sometimes come under fire.

“Every patient is important and whenever we receive a complaint, it is imperative that we act on it to gather evidence of the allegations and take appropriate action. But also, people complain about waiting periods and those are the issues we need to deal with, looking at the issue of referrals, which I have just alluded to.”

She said the hospital is burdened by a high number of patients, a situation that demands increased staff working in all priority service areas.

“The hospital has been struggling to retain key medical staff, mainly due to strenuous working conditions and issues to do with remuneration. The issues surrounding staff salaries at this hospital remains unresolved and we feel that the ministry of finance should take it upon themselves to work with us on a solution,” Ms Thahane said.

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