Days of setting up private practices numbered

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Windhoek – Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku on Friday re-iterated his stance that the days of foreign doctors setting up private practices in the country are numbered.

At a media briefing here, Haufiku said the Health Professions Council of Namibia Bill would be tabled in parliament by mid-February.

“I really need this bill to go through, because a lot of things actually hinge on it as far as health governance is concerned. The issue of doctors coming from anywhere in the world to put up a private practice in Namibia straight away will be a thing of the past,” Haufiku stressed.

Qualified doctors, whether Namibians who studied abroad or foreign nationals who want to set up private practices, will be required to do public service for at least five years, Haufiku said.

“We actually think five years is a reasonable time. We don’t think it’s unreasonable. We’re not repentant about that. We think it’s in the interest of public health that we deploy these cadres in the public sector for five years. We will not allow anyone to just set up a private practice,” the health minister stressed.

There is an imbalance and large inequality in favour of the private sector, Haufiku said, adding that the public sector is not served adequately.

“We can’t allow the situation to go on like that,” he said.

The Registrar of the Health Professions Council of Namibia, Cornelius Weyulu, observed that most foreign doctors who set up private practices locally “are jumping to eat our medical aid [funds] without serving the ordinary people”.

“We’ve been monitoring service delivery and healthcare. It’s not only about foreign nationals, but also foreign graduates. They need to be groomed to be independent graduates, whether they are sponsored by government or privately. Saturating the market (through the mushrooming of private practices) is a disadvantage to the (public) health sector. It should be service first and money second,” he noted.

Haufiku further said a memorandum of understanding would be signed between the health ministry and private doctors and specialists who work outside Khomas Region.
“There are a lot of private doctors that see patients. Those specialists and general practitioners who are consulting in the regions will be invited to sign a memorandum of understanding with us, so that when they go and see patients in other regions then the list of patients from the State can also wait for such a doctor there to see them,” explained Haufiku.

“We think it is going to be much cheaper than transporting the patients from the regions to Windhoek. Such a doctor can also help us train doctors in the regions, because our aim is to strengthen regional capacity,” he said.

Haufiku wants health services to be so decentralised that only critical patients would be sent to Windhoek for health services. “We want the district and regional hospitals to function properly to a point that only about 15 to 20 percent of anyone seeking health services should be coming to Windhoek,” he said.

This would be complemented by the outreach campaign initiated in 2015.

“The outreach programme would be modified to make it compulsory for specialists to volunteer on a more regular basis,” the health minister added.

by Alvine Kapitako

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