Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi has reiterated that his relationship with President Hifikepunye Pohamba is cordial, respectful and firmer than ever despite a Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the public health system that he (Kamwi) commands.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba called for a special inquiry into the public health system last year and recommendations were made to have a turnaround of the sector in a bid to improve service delivery.
The Commission of Enquiry led by Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe revealed many weaknesses in the public health delivery system including unavailability of facilities in marginalised areas, poor funding, lack of skills in the sector and also child mortality in the health sector.
Dr. Kamwi who had a wide ranging interview with The Villager concerning the public health delivery system and challenges that are faced by the country in improving service delivery said many people in different circles misunderstood the institution of the commission of inquiry as a direct attack on him while it was meant to have the best solutions for the country.
He revealed for the first time that after the Commission of inquiry he had an open engagement with the President were they both agreed that there is need for the country to deal with the challenges in an open and transparent manner.
“I was actually called by the President while I was in Geneva and he told me that the health sector is under attack. He even told me to finish duty where I was and we would sit down and work out a way forward. We managed to do that and I also concurred with him that I was happy to have an open strategy where we would dig into the challenges we are facing without any interference,” he said.
He added that, “I want to make it clear today that the relationship that I have with the President is very cordial and much stronger than what people think. I also have to take this opportunity to tell the public that unlike what people think I was part of the brains that created the terms of reference for the health commission.
“There has been much ground covered since the release of commission of inquiry. As a ministry we have set down and come up with a roadmap to rectify the challenges that have been hampering the public health system. Ironically there are lot of achievements that are never covered by the media and people at large,” he said.
A glimpse of the roadmap created to smoothen public health delivery shows that the ministry plans to improve health sector governance, training of health sector workers, development of human resources capacity, healthcare service provision, and development of hospitals and health facilities and services.
According to Kamwi the revelations of the health commission had nothing to do with him as an individual but creating a thinking platform for government, “We then looked ahead and asked if we have the resources that we need to turn around the challenges we faced into successes. I must admit that the Ministry of Finance gave us a comfortable budget to deal with the infrastructure development and we are busy building public health facilities,” he said.
While admitting that the country has a mountain to climb in terms of dealing with skills deficit in the public health delivery system because of competition from private sector, Kamwi revealed that he has also made it mandatory that the country trains her own health experts. Kamwi also added that it was virtually impossible for the country to deal with the challenges in the health delivery system without a well-crafted and supportive legislation.
Skills build up
According to Dr. Kamwi although the country needs to look at self-sustenance for skills supply in the long run Kamwi also revealed that he does not see the country solely depending on expatriates in the long term.
“I am a pan Africanist and I should make it clear that in the meantime we will continue to work closely with other countries that want to assist us with health experts but this cannot be sustainable in the longer term. We are currently having experts from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but we also need to come up with our own people who are capable,” he said.
Kamwi also added that the Ministry is now working closely with the University of Zambia in a bid to produce more experts in critical areas while Polytechnic of Namibia and University of Namibia will also continue to receive support in the schools of medicine and applied sciences.
According to Kamwi the country has done tremendously well in combating the ravaging effects of HIV and Aids. “Ten years ago you would see convoys of cars going to the cemetery because there was no immediate plan for the deasese but do you see the same this day? We are the only country in the region that has also received thumps up from the World Health Organisation because of our fight against malaria. We have also managed to eradicate the threats of H1N1 without external help but are all those things being talked about?” he said.
Child mortality and Maternal and health
Kamwi also added that although the country once had a maternal death rate 449 per 100 000 significant break throughs have so far been made resulting in the alarming rate being reduced to a 106 per 100 000.
“I am of the opinion that perhaps people do not understand how other countries are performing when it comes to maternal health. I can tell you that in this region there are countries that I will not mention by names that have a maternal health fatality rate of 779 per 100 000 but those ones are not mentioned but the emphasis is to paint Kamwi as the failure.
“I can also tell you that I am still chairing the group of eight in the region on malaria despite the chairmanship being rotated. These are some of the achievements that we have received as a country. However I should also admit that we are also not in the right direction in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said Dr. Kamwi. He added that the country is also making frantic efforts to have regional referral hospitals to make health facilities accessible.