Rwanda’s health sector has made remarkable progress
Posted Wednesday, October 9 2013 at 01:00
Efforts to ensure universal access to quality healthcare for all Rwandans continue and this is a process that will not be completed overnight. More than 90 per cent of the population can acquire healthcare, especially with the current medical insurance system in place.
Reference is made to an article that was published in the Daily Monitor of October 3 under the headline, “Rwanda has only one surgeon for 11 million people.” I would like to commend the media for their role in raising key issues that affect the population but in the case of this article, the writer gave the wrong impression of Rwanda’s health sector as far as the number of medical personnel is concerned.
I would like to correct the facts given in this article by stating that from an estimated 30 doctors in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, today, Rwanda has more than 171 medical specialists, including 37 surgeons, and 30 surgeons in training, a big number of the surgeons in training are from the Central University Hospital of Kigali (CHUK).
The specialists are distributed in referral hospitals and district hospitals. Health care services are always delivered to the best of the personnel’s moral and professional standards. I wish to point out that the Government of Rwanda, through the Ministry of Health, has created different partnerships, which from time to time provide support to building the necessary health workforce to create a high quality, sustainable healthcare system. On many an occasion, we receive different visiting teams of specialists. A case in point being the recent visiting team from India and Nigeria in partnership with Rotary Club who are offering free plastic surgery to survivors of the 1994 genocide.
In addition, Rwanda’s efforts to bridge the geographical access gap to quality healthcare have paid off. We have five referral hospitals, 42 district hospitals and 470 gealth centres. 60 per cent of Rwandans live within 5km of a health facility and 85 per cent live within 10km. This implies that even patients that need specialised treatment or care can easily access the services.
While our country has registered a lot of progress in the health sector over the past 10 years, efforts to ensure universal access to quality healthcare for all Rwandans continue and this is a process that will not be completed overnight. More than 90 per cent of the population can acquire healthcare, especially with the current medical insurance system in place.
The most recent Rwandan innovation is the introduction of the Human Resources for Health (HRH) that was introduced last year. CHUK, the teaching hospital where I have worked since 1994, increased the quality of care in collaboration with many partners but the benefit from the HRH programme is highly appreciated in terms of increasing the of number of student in post graduate programme and clinical activities.
The HRH programme is a partnership with the US government that allows bringing 100 US faculty members for a year in Rwanda at no cost for Rwanda. These highly experienced health professionals and academicians fill clinical gaps and help the faculty to improve its teaching capacity and support Rwanda to produce a bigger number of qualified medical doctors and specialists.
With this programme, we will train 500 specialists and 5,000 nurses before 2018. We can also add 50 more Rwandan residents in specialisation programme outside the country. This will dramatically increase our population’s access to qualified and skilled-level Rwandan clinicians. It will also help our medical students and residents to be educated by more skilled Rwandan educators, in health sciences - medical nursing, midwifery, and oral health.
The HRH programme and other home-grown solution are among some of the actions taken by the government to improve the life of Rwandan. The fruits of such endeavours are already yielding results with life expectancy having doubled.
The Daily Monitor article gets it right, that there is a lot to do in our journey to developing the health sector, but it does not give the correct figures of our health personnel or current status of general access to quality healthcare for our citizens.
Dr Hategekimana is the director of the Central University Hospital of Kigali