Special health fund benefits the poor

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Josefina Nghituwamata

Windhoek-The beneficiaries of the State Special Fund have encouraged Namibians without medical aid, to approach the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) for financial assistance when suffering from chronic illnesses instead of appealing for donations through the media.

The State Special Fund offers financial assistance to state patients with rare conditions or illnesses that state hospitals cannot treat and who need specialist treatment.

One of the beneficiaries, Risca Manyando, came to know about the fund when she went to Rundu State Hospital for her usual visits after doctors diagnosed her with a kidney ailment.

The illness completely changed her life and forced her to leave her job.
“I felt hopeless, confused, scared at the same time and did not know what to do. I felt as if the world was coming to a bitter end for me,” she recalled.

Doctors diagnosed the 40-year-old mother of one with kidney failure in 2012, and since then her condition has required her to go for dialysis on a daily basis at the hospital.

Dialysis is a treatment where a special machine takes over the kidney functions to prevent kidney failure, and usually the patient requires dialysis for the rest of his or her life.

What made matters worse was the fact that in 2016 Manyando’s doctor recommended fistula surgery to have a catheter inserted in her vein.

She needed the catheter while waiting for a kidney donor but still had to continue with her daily dialysis.

The cost of the fistula surgery, at around N$100,000 dismayed Manyando, and she did not know what to do since she did not have a medical aid after her illness forced her to leave the job.

“It was one day while at Rundu State Hospital for my usual dialysis that I saw a poster with information about the State Special Fund and the type of assistance it offers.

“I then decided to give it a try and discovered that I was eligible for financial assistance from the State Special Fund and so I applied to the fund in Windhoek through their customer care centre as shown on the poster,” she said.

The fund requested Manyando to travel to Windhoek to apply for financial assistance through the customer care centre at the Ministry of Health.

After the fund approved her application, the ministry ensured she received treatment from one of the best specialist in Cape Town, and paid for both her flight ticket and the specialist.

‘’The State Special fund settled my medical bills, along with the transport costs to South Africa and back. If it wasn’t for the State Special Fund I don’t know what I would have done. I’m still struggling as I am unemployed, but they have helped and I’m very grateful.

‘’I feel so fortunate to have had the constant support of the State Special Fund throughout the whole surgery process. The health problem I have has completely changed my life, but thanks to the State Special Fund, I have the support I need and hope for the future, ’’ she added.

Another beneficiary, Helena Kakololo, thanked the government on behalf of her daughter for providing financial assistance to make an operation possible.

Her daughter (28), who shares the same name and surname, went for facial surgery in September 2016 at the Medi-Clinic hospital in Windhoek to have artificial joints inserted.
In a telephonic interview Kakololo the mother, who stays at Egologolo village in Ohangwena region, said one of her daughter’s ribs had a growth defect that affected her speech and mouth.

This made her daughter unable to walk, talk, or open her mouth properly, and she even struggled to eat or sing like other children. However, through the State Special Fund her daughter underwent successful facial surgery.

‘’This fund changed my daughter’s life from bad to good. Thus I will never forget the role the fund played in bringing comfort and support to my daughter and the relief it brought to my family,” a visibly elated Kakololo said.

The fund caters for state patients who do not have access to private medical care.
Over 800 State patients have so far benefited from the fund since its inception in 2009 with a total of 234 patients benefiting between 2013 and 2016.

The fund has observed that the number of beneficiaries has increased over the years with the ministry’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the availability and accessibility of the State Special Fund.

The Health Ministry’s Public Relations Officer Ester Paulus encouraged members of the public to make use of the fund through their district hospitals when the need arises.
Among the common conditions the fund has provided assistance for in the first phase is cardiac and renal conditions, but with new developments the ministry’s hospital budget now covers cardiac and renal conditions.

This has allowed the fund to concentrate on promptly addressing other rare conditions such as Oncology, Surgery (Neuro, Spinal, Foot and Hand), Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Internal medicine (Pulmonary conditions), Orthopaedic, Cardiac and Kidney transplants.

* Josefina Nghituwamata is a senior information officer at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology based in Windhoek.

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