The Ministry of Health and Wellness has withdrawn a savingram that stipulated that patients who displayed self-inflicted health conditions stemming from alcohol and substance abuse should not be treated. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Ms Shanaaz El-Halabi disclosed this when she appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently.
Specially elected Member of Parliament, Ms Bogolo Kenewendo (right) had asked what motivated the issuance of the savingram and what assessments were done to ascertain percentages of patients who visited health facilities with self-inflicted illnesses. Ms El-Halabi said the move was made based on the prioritisation of health costs.
“We prioritise health conditions to manage costs. This was a cost containment measure, but the savingram has been withdrawn following feedback that was received,” she said.
Another PAC member, Mr Dithapelo Keorapetse asked if any legal advice was sought on the matter, given the implications and the fact that patients would have to pay for their treatment, which is at odds with the terms of the constitution, the World Health Organisation and the Public Health Act. He said the move would have been unacceptable because the accounting officer did not have the legal right to make such decisions.
“You do not have the powers to do so according to the Public Health Act. It’s a violation of patient’s rights,” emphasised Mr Keorapetse.
Ms El-Halabi responded;
“But we are talking about a savingram that has been withdrawn,” Ms El-Halabi said, adding that the Ministry of Health and Wellness was mandated to provide health services to every Motswana free of charge and that the savingram was cancelled after negative feedback.
Asked if the savingram was an initiative by the Ministry of Health and what the Cabinet’s position on the savingram was, Ms El-Halabi said it was a Cabinet directive, but that they had since withdrawn it.
Additionally, Mr Keorapetse (right) wanted to know why doctors who were not qualified as specialists are paid at the scale of specialists, while some Batswana medical students from China with the same qualifications as a Chinese national are denied registration and the right to practice.
In response, Ms El-Halabi said she was not aware of that happening and that she would follow it up.
MP Keorapetse also wanted to know why employees in the Ministry of Health and Wellness on the D1 scale and below on fully sponsored assignments are denied the 25 percent per diem they are eligible for as per the Public Service General Orders Section 109.9, while it applied to those on higher scales.
Ms El- Halabi said she took the decision as a cost containment measure because they were faced with financial constraints. In response, Mr Keorapetse however, said the general orders must be followed to protect the integrity of the country.
Interrogated on government expenditure on external health care, Ms El-Halabi said there were referrals to other countries because there was a shortage of expertise in areas such as oncology, orthopaedics, cardiology and Intensive Care Unit. But she said the Ministry was working to build in-country capacity.
Image source: The European Times