CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI, Kabwe
THE shortage of clinical officers in Zambia is one of the challenges negatively affecting delivery of quality healthcare services in health institutions.
According to the Ministry of Health, Zambia has 1,622 trained clinical officers against a minimum requirement of 4,813 practitioners.
This shortage is compounded by the fact that Lusakaâ€™s Chainama College of Health Sciences is the only institution training clinical officers.
Chainama College of Health Sciences main campus has an annual capacity to train 82 clinical officers only.
Against the foregoing, the US government in collaboration with the Zambian government have opened another college of health sciences in Kabwe at a cost of K5 million.
Chainama College of Health Sciences Kabwe campus located in Highridge Township is expected to enrol the first intake of 60 students in July this year and 120 in 2016.
Minister of Health Joseph Kasonde said during the opening of the college that Governmentâ€™s goal is to expand the production of healthcare workers.
â€œThis training school, which will be offering similar courses to those offered at the Chainama College of Health Sciences in Lusaka was built at a total cost of over K5 million with support from the United States of America government,â€ Dr Kasonde said.
The college has been constructed by Mercury Lines Limited and the project was undertaken under US government Presidentâ€™s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The US government observes that the current capacity of both public and private health training institutions in Zambia is inadequate to raise the required number of clinical offers for quality health service delivery.
US Ambassador to Zambia Erick Shultz notes that Chainama College of Health Sciences in Lusaka can only train 82 clinical officers every year.
With this low output, Mr Shultz says it will take Zambia 39 years to attain the minimum requirement of clinical officers.
â€œThe country has a critical shortage of clinical officers, who in most cases, are taking responsibility for running health facilities in peri-urban and rural areas in the absence of medical doctors.
â€œIn order to mitigate the current shortfall in clinical officers, the US government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, agreed to open another training school for clinical officers to supplement Chainama College, whose capacity is limited by inadequate infrastructure.â€
Mr Shultz said in a speech read by US Embassy air force defence attachÃ© Anthony Sidoti that he is confident the new college will help in mitigating the shortage of clinical officers in the country and contribute to improving the lives of the people.
He also commended Government for embarking on a mission to improve health service delivery in the country through the construction of health facilities.
To achieve this goal, he said, more trained medical personnel are needed to work in health institutions to deliver effective health services.
â€œThere is need, therefore, to increase output of trained personnel as government increases health facilities,â€ Mr Shultz said.
The US government has allocated US$944,353.60 for training of clinical officers at the college and for staff accommodation.
The provincial administration in Central Province is elated that the countryâ€™s second college of health sciences has been established in Kabwe.
Central Province minister Davies Chisopa said the establishment of the college is a demonstration of the significance Government attaches to improving delivery of healthcare services.
â€œAs Central Province, we are privileged to have a Government institution that will be offering training in clinical medicine apart from Chainama College of Health Sciences in Lusaka, which happens to be the mother college,â€ Mr Chisopa said.
The establishment of the college, Mr Chisopa said is a demonstration of the importance Government attaches to accelerating training of more clinical officers and provision of quality health services.
â€œThe college will not benefit Central Province alone but the entire Zambia and I encourage all Zambians, especially Kabwe residents, to guard this facility jealously,â€ Mr Chisopa said.
The college also has four staff houses, administration block, classrooms, library, laboratory and computer centre.
The Ministry of Health is working with the Public Service Management Division (PSMD) to recruit enough teaching staff for the college because Government needs a teaching establishment that will sustain the college without challenges.
Dr Kasonde is also upbeat that an increase in the number of health training institutions means that the number of health professionals will increase.
â€œTo this end, Government is constructing a 2,000 student capacity National Health Institute in Lusaka at Chainama Hills Hospital grounds. The construction of this institution that will train students in different health programmes is expected to be completed next year,â€ he said.
The minister said infrastructure development will ultimately culminate in the scaling up of enrolment of students in health training institutions.
â€œThe opening of Kabwe campus is one way of realising the goal of expanding the production of healthcare workers,â€ he said.
Dr Kasonde thanked the US government for supporting Zambia in opening the Chainama College of Health Sciences Kabwe campus.
Dr Kasonde also commended AMREF and GSK Zambia for procuring medical books, computers and training models for the new college.
He assured the American government that Chainama College of Health Sciences Kabwe campus will be used for the intended purpose to train more clinical officers.
Dr Kasonde also urged the community in Highridge to jealously guard the college from any vandalism.
Dr Kasonde also reiterated that Government is committed to providing equity of access to cost effective healthcare services close to families.
CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI, Kabwe