By NOMSA NKANA, Western Province
THE Patriotic Front (PF) government is determined to ensure fundamentals of service delivery, infrastructure development, human resource, and drug availability are adhered to.
Government is also on a relentless quest to bring healthcare services as close to the people as possible.
It is against this background that Government has embarked on a rigorous programme to invest in infrastructure development to anchor health services through the continuum of care.
Recently Deputy Minister of Health Doctor Chitalu Chilufya was in Western Province to inspect health services in their entirety.
His first port of call was Kaoma District where he paid a courtesy call on the, District commissioner Robert Chiseke, to explain his mission.
â€œWe are here to inspect health services, service delivery, the quality of primary health care services, and quality of clinical health care services our people are receiving here in Kaoma,â€ he said.
Dr Chilufya also said construction of Kalwalo and Mulalilo health centres, which are part of 650 health posts Government is building country wide, is indicative of more health facilities to come to Western Province.
He believes modernisation of Kaoma District Hospital is a way of strengthening the referral system to ensure that levels of service delivery are enhanced.
Decentralisation of Medical Stores and opening of a hub in Mongu is meant to bring drugs closer to the people, Dr Chilufya said.
And during his tour of duty, Dr Chilufya inspected works at the old Kaoma hospital which has now been transformed into a training school.
This is one of the key interventions that the PF Government is implementing to address human resource shortage in the health sector.
â€œWe engaged a donor, Furrer Foundation, to carry out infrastructure refurbishment but Iâ€™m not happy with progress as this project started in 2013.
However, this is no fault of the donor as the MoU between Furrer and Government has been stuck at Ministry of Justice, which has resulted in funds also being held.
Weâ€™ll ensure this structure does not remain a white elephant. It must be completed in the next few months,â€ Dr Chilufya said.
He added, once works are complete, the school is expected to be opened the first quarter of 2016.
To that effect, he ordered director of planning Ministry of Health to facilitate the release of funds for the donor to complete the project.
And Western Province Provincial Medical Officer (PMO) Dr Andrew Silumesii said the project is the third registered training school yet to be opened in the province.
Recently opened, is Senanga Training School, and Lewanika Nursing School which has been upgraded from enrolled nursing to registered nursing and midwifery.
â€œSo, we are adding to that momentum by ensuring that this school is opened at the earliest possible time,â€ he said.
Dr Silumesii also said the training school is important because it will be responding to the critical shortage of human resource in the health sector.
It is his hope that the training school which will offer a three year programme will address the nurse-patient ratio which is below requirement.
He said since training opportunities have been scarce, the school will thus address this challenge by bringing close to Kaoma, training opportunities for young men and women.
Following inspection of works at the training school, Dr Chilufya and his team made an impromptu visit to Kaoma District Hospital to inspect the patient flow.
He was concerned at the slow pace at which the patients were being attended to.
Dr Chilufya took it upon himself with Dr Silumesii and two others to swing into action and attend to over 30 patients in no time.
He discovered that the patients had been queuing up waiting for medicine because the dispensary staff had gone on a break.
This displeased him, â€œthere must be access to drugs seven days a week and 24 hours. No one must be given a prescription when drugs are available in the dispensary. It is an offense to give someone a prescription when dispensary is well stocked with drugs. If you have to go on a break, ensure that there is a basic supply basket of drugs for the weekends when the pharmacy is closed. Your systems must be functional and cross checked.â€
He told the Doctor in charge to ensure patient flow is improved, patients are seen by a clinician on a daily basis and to also ensure patients have access to drugs at all times.
Dr Chilufya also noted that there is need for recruitment of more Pharmacists at the hospital for rational use of drugs, and proper quantification of drugs to avoid stock outs, among others.
And with the help of the US, Government has purchased a storage facility called Storage In a Box for storage of pharmaceutical products and other medical supplies at the cost of US$60 000.
In addition to the StorageÂ in a Box at the hospital, others are expected to be installed in Sioma, Nalolo, Keyema and Mwandi to address the challenge of inadequate space for storage of medicines.
According to Dr Silumesii, the boxes will serve as a three months buffer for medicines so that in the event there is a problem in the supply chain, patients should still receive their medicines.
And in Mongu, Government with support of the European Union released K3.5 million to Lewanika School of Nursing out of which K1.8 million that was used for construction of a skills laboratory.
The skills laboratory is meant to offer practical skills to the student nurses.
The remainder of the resources went towards construction of a staff house, teaching materials and furniture for the nursing school.
And with the completion of the skills laboratory, deployment of a specialist obstetrician to Lewanika General Hospital, creation of more space in wards for separate services such as pediatrics, obstetrics and surgery among others, the school is set to be upgraded from enrolled nursing to registered nursing and to also begin the midwifery programme.
To this effect, Dr Chilufya said, â€œthis fits in very well with our vision to reduce the gap between the demand for health workers and production because it will now help us to increase productionâ€.
The school is expected to open next year in January with its first intake of registered nurses.
Dr Chilufya also took time to inspect the Maternity Annex at the hospital, which was completed at the cost of K1.7 million.
â€œIâ€™m happy with this building as it has changed the landscape of reproductive health services. We did not have adequate space for ante-natal, post-natal, and delivery services,â€ he said.
He also said the completion of the annex has improved services for the people of Mongu adding that it will also help improve training of nurses in midwifery.
And with the addition of an obstetrician, Dr Chilufya says it has added value to the hospital.
â€œThis is a referral system for Kaoma, Senanga, Shangombo, and the upcoming hospital in Limulunga.
Weâ€™ve also built flats that are now accommodating our nurses and other paramedics,â€ he said.
Government wants to ensure that Lewanika General Hospital provides services at its level of accreditation as a second level specialist hospital.
And Lewanika General Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Mapani Muntanga said the new maternity wing was operationalised in May 2015.
She said some challenges at the new wing are that some of the floors are not yet tiled, there are no dividers between beds and that some rooms do not yet have sinks.
Other challenges are inadequate nursing staff and doctors to mann the wards.
â€œWe usually have one nurse manning a ward which has 24-28 patients. We have spoken to the minister about this and he has promised to address it,â€ she said.
And Dr Chilufya wound up his tour of duty by inspecting works at Mongu District Hospital where he was not pleased with the progress.
â€œContractors must adhere to time schedules. Delayed mobilisation is not acceptable. We will not give time extension. This hospital must be open within the next 4-6 months,â€ he said.
The contractor on site, Speed Dragon said works will be completed by September 2016.
And out of 64 health posts in Western Province, 35 will be completed by the month end with equipment already in the area.
With construction of various health posts in Western Province, upgrading of medical training institutions, modernisation of existing hospitals, recruitment of medical personnel, Government is on course to achieving its goal of strengthening referral systems, taking health services closer to the people and enhancing of health care delivery.
By NOMSA NKANA, Western Province