THE Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, has pleaded with the Chinese government to double the number of doctors they send to Lesotho each year.
Mr Kabi made the plea during the farewell of the 12th Chinese Medical Team which was deployed in Lesotho from October last year. The reception which was held at the Chinese Embassy in Maseru on Monday also served as the welcome ceremony for the 13th medical team which will also spend a year of service in Lesotho.
Each year, China sends eight medical specialists to assist local doctors. The Chinese doctors are deployed at Motebang Hospital in Leribe from where they visit remote areas in the northern parts of the country such as Mokhotlong. They also donate groceries to the needy during their visits.
Since 1996, more than 150 Chinese doctors have been deployed to Lesotho to help in different hospitals.
The health minister commended the Chinese doctors for “a marvelous job” in bridging the human resource shortage in the health sector and further pleaded for more doctors to increase the reach in the rural areas effectively.
“We have worked closely with the outgoing team and they have noted that there are some places which are hard to reach where the sick sometime take long to travel to medical centers on horseback,” Mr Kabi said.
“The medical teams are doing a sterling job at Motebang Hospital by even bringing forth new healing techniques from the Chinese traditional medicine. However, life is not that hard in the urban areas like Hlotse as patients are able to get medical attention easily.
“Lesotho’s doctor-patient ratio is so bad that I am even ashamed to say it publicly hence I am pleading with the Chinese government through this embassy to boost the number of doctors It would be quite helpful if the team could be boosted by at least doubling the number of doctors sent each year.”
Mr Kabi also lobbied for the extension for each team’s stay saying Chinese doctors take time to adapt to the Basotho lifestyle due to cultural differences and by the time they are used to it and excel in their job, their stay period would soon lapse.
The outgoing medical team’s leader, Xu Xunhua applauded the dedication of his team which he said was able to treat over 20 000 patients during their one year stay in the Leribe district.
He said they also successfully performed 1178 operations, treated 8348 outpatients, treated 86 emergencies, performed 4618 acupunctures, 513 anesthesia, 2400 ultra-sound scans, 3600 x-ray scans and 137 electrocardiograms.
“The 12th Chinese Medical Team has diagnosed and treated over 20 000 patients throughout the year and for the first time in Motebang, a perineal IV-degree laceration repair was conducted. Huang Huan and Yin Xianqin co-operated and successfully performed the first vulva malformation correction and the first cervical cerclage in the second trimester of pregnancy.
“The medical team has effectively treated patients at every task, leading to improvement of diagnosis and treatment of the hospital. The team has further carried out one-week medical services tour for four times in the rural areas of Lesotho, treating more than 1 500 patients, bringing the leading expertise, giving local medical workers lectures based on topics, skills training, surgery demonstrations and teaching local doctors to improve their competence.
“The team was further conducted several healings using traditional Chinese medical methods such as using pins in acupuncture treatments,” Dr Xunhua said.
The leader of the incoming 13th Chinese Medical Team, Li Jin, said that his team was ready and dedicated to save as many lives as possible.
“The 13th Chinese Medical Team brings forth specialists in Chinese traditional medicine, surgeons, gaenacologists and radiologists. We will not be afraid of any hardships as the aim of flying down here for more than hours is to ensure that we save lives. Our mandate is to contribute towards the health of Basotho and further strengthen the ties between China and Lesotho,” he said.
For his part, the Charge d’Affaires ad interim and Political Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy, Song Changqing, said that the Chinese Medical teams have for more than 20 years not only brought services but skills share as well.
“China sent the first medical team in 1996 as a friendly gesture to their Basotho friends. A year is not a long time but the 12th medical team has done a lot as indicated by its leader. They worked in cooperation with Motebang Hospital doctors to treat patients while also hosting skills transfer workshops in remote areas.
“They have dedicated their time here in Lesotho leaving their families for a 12-months period and others even endured the pain of losing their loved ones back at home while they were on duty.
“Their contribution has added to a legacy of China-Lesotho friendship. China fully understands challenges faced by Lesotho in helping its people as a developing country hence its commitment to help. To date, more than 60 doctors and nurses have undergone training in China while the Chinese government has further pledged M400 million towards the construction of Maseru Hospital and Eye Centre. China seeks and will continue to be a mutual development friend to Lesotho,” Mr Changqing said.
Lesotho has a serious lack of medical practitioners and spends millions annually to send patients to South Africa and recently, India for specialist treatment.
A team of doctors from Apollo Hospital, in India visited the country in April this to assist the government in its fight against non-communicable diseases like cancer and kidney ailments.
Apollo Hospital is India’s leading specialist hospital with more than 5000 doctors that offer the best modern healthcare.
The team focused on the improvement of cancer and renal services whose unavailability has compromised the health of Basotho.
The Ministry of Health’s Director General, Nyane Letsie, told the Lesotho Times that the doctors will now periodically help Lesotho with cancer and renal services which are not available at the national referral hospital, the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH).
“The doctors visited our government hospitals where they looked into our structures and identified patients that will need to be flown to India for cancer and renal treatment,” Dr Letsie said in April.
The Ministry of Health has also in recent months engaged South Africa-based Basotho specialist doctors on a part time basis as part of efforts of reducing the referral of patients to the neighbouring country and to improve the overall health delivery system in the country.
Talks on the proposed engagement of the South Africa-based doctors commenced between the two parties during their joint tour of Mafeteng Hospital in July.