By Neo Kolane
Medical experts have weighed in on government’s plans to respond to the global Covid-19 pandemic, whose impact has been shattering on human health and the economy.
To date, more than 9,000 people have contracted the virus and over 200 deaths have been recorded. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been a health crisis but has also adversely impacted the economy
The minister of finance, Thabo Sophonea, stated that government set priorities on the health sector needs, particularly on the requirements of the health sector personnel. Funding was allocated for procurement of adequate personal protective equipment to ensure a safe working environment of health workers.
Sophonea stated that the health system has been strengthened through the installation of teleconferencing infrastructure in 30 health facilities, which include 18 hospitals. This infrastructure has enabled continuation of training, mentorship, and supervision of health care workers virtually for HIV/TB and COVID-19 interventions.
“In addition, this teleconferencing infrastructure supported the largest healthcare worker training on Advanced HIV Disease (AHD) management in which a total of 278 healthcare workers were trained on AHD management virtually over a 3-day period,” he said.
“In the 2021/22 fiscal year the ministry will, roll-out implementation of the village Health-workers programme policy linking with local governance structures. Among others the rollout will include maintaining consistency in monthly payment for Village Health Workers (VHWs) stipend; districts and stakeholders sensitisation on the new village health program policy; procurement of VHWs kits and protective clothing; six-week initial trainings for VHWs across districts and continuation of essential PHC services in the context of COVID-19. Sensitization of VHWs on COVID-19 and their role in surveillance.”
Sophonea also stated that the country has made enormous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In the area of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Optimization – the HIV programme has responded to the need to improve the lives of people living with HIV by improving the type of ARV drugs being provided in the country.
“The current ART coverage is over 70 percent and to date 224 health facilities are providing ART in the country inclusive of both public and private facilities. In 2021 the ministry will be focusing on improving the provision of quality HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.”
Among other things, Sophonea said that there has been a call for establishment of a radiotherapy (cancer) Centre in-Country. In preparation for this, an Oncology clinic for cancer treatment has been established at Senkatana Centre and will soon offer chemotherapy services. The Centre performs cervical cancer screening and treatment for pre-cancer lesions and refers cancer clients requiring specialised treatment to Bloemfontein.
“The ministry of health has achieved a great milestone by launching the Health Sector Turn-Around Strategy in December 2020 in Maseru. The strategy is aimed at ensuring that the Ministry adopts Primary Health Care (PHC) as an overarching strategy for delivery of health services in Lesotho.
“It will also inculcate a culture of oversight and accountability at all levels of the health systems; and ensuring that the programmes have the requisite resources and capacity to deliver essential services and last but not least strengthening citizen engagement such as Councilors, District Administrators and Chiefs for ownership and responsibility of improved health outcomes,” he added.
However, former minister of health and revered medical practitioner, Dr ‘Molotsi Monyamane is not so convinced.
“For 40 years the village health workers have been given a stipend because they were told that they are volunteers, but for how long? When there is a change of government the village health workers are always trained, the training is conducted by the so-called contracted trainers, the employees of the ministry of health insist on using politically connected owners of guest houses, the employees are given a daily allowance of R700.”
Monyamane also stated that the village health workers are lately recruited according to party political inclination to help recruit voters.
“The Chinese government has donated money for the building of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital as our teaching hospital like it was before but the Prime Minister has been silent.
“The Lesotho government owes Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein M160,000, money which was budgeted to pay this debt was siphoned to India where the former minister of health and embassy officials diverted funds, the PM was silent. It is shocking that nothing was said about COVID-19,” he said.