Set up commission to probe Queen II

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LAST week’s newspaper report about the state of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru painted a very sad picture of how far we are lagging in meeting our millennium challenge development goals.

It is clearly stipulated in the millennium development goals charter that Lesotho will deliver basic health services to its people.

With our health delivery system in such mess I shudder to think how we are going to meet those development goals.

It is well known that most Basotho patients are constantly referred to hospitals in Bloemfontein, South Africa, for medical treatment.

This is an admission that our health delivery system in Lesotho is still lagging behind.

The situation at Queen Elizabeth II hospital and the rest of our hospitals in the districts shows failure at the political level.

Queen Elizabeth II Hospital does not have an intensive care unit. The hospital usually runs out of medicines. The toilets are filthy.

There are no enough beds resulting in some patients sleeping on the floor.

The nurses and doctors say they are overworked.

These are some of the ills that the hospital is saddled with. In short the state of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital leaves a lot to be desired.

In general terms I think it is no exaggeration to state that people have lost faith in Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.

They cite the reported negligence by staff and lack of equipment and medicines at the hospital.

Following the 2007 general elections the government did try to refurbish the hospital and upgrade its infrastructure.

The government also introduced free health care policy to help the poor and under-privileged to cushion them from the economic crisis.

But the free health care policy had a negative impact on the health delivery system. That policy contributed to the collapse of the little that remained at our biggest referral hospital.

The crisis at the hospital has had a huge impact on the country that is struggling with one of the highest HIV/Aids infection rates in the world.

United Nations aid agencies say Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence rate in the world.

The situation at Queen II undermines the huge efforts being made by non-governmental organisations and donor agencies in mitigating and attempting to put the virus under control.

HIV and Aids need a strong health delivery sector to prolong the lives of individuals who are already infected by the virus.

Queen II, as we affectionately call the hospital, is all what we have as a country.

This is the hospital that gets the biggest chunk of the health budget.

But despite the massive resources ploughed there the hospital arguably still has the highest levels of inefficiency in the country.

I fear that the new hospital under construction at Lepereng will be confronted by similar problems.

The problems affecting the healthy delivery system appear to be structural.

The problems of low pay for doctors and nurses will remain with us whether a hospital is built or not.

Some doctors are not entirely clean regarding the state of affairs at Queen II particularly those running private surgeries.

There have been allegations that some doctors divert essential medicines from the hospital to their private surgeries.

Medicines disappear at Queen II.

 Records show that something is going on at the hospital regarding the abuse of medicines.

This has given rise to fears that some doctors are stealing medicines to sell in their private surgeries.

These are the same doctors who continue to complain about lack of medicines at the hospital.

Health care is an essential service.

We need a commission of enquiry to get to the bottom of the issues raised in last week’s report.

The government has come up with brilliant policies for the health sector. We want to see delivery regarding most of those government policies.

The general management, procurement offices and dispensaries at government hospitals should be monitored to spot where the failure emanates.

Instead of being defensive government officials should admit that there are serious problems regarding the delivery of better health care for Basotho.

Admitting that there are problems is the first step in resolving the crisis in the sector.

The government will also need to seriously look into the pay structure of doctors and nurses and stop the brain drain in the health sector.

We also expect a tight monitoring of how essential medicines are dispensed.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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