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Opinion - Do away with government medical aid

2021-03-30  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Do away with government medical aid
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This year, we will spend a whopping N$2.6 billion on medical aid for government employees. 

In the last five years, the government spent N$11.1; at this rate, five years ahead we will spend over N$13 billion on less than 20% of the population. Being a Public Service Medical Aid Scheme (Psemas) beneficiary means that you can access quality medical services at private health practices in the country and at times abroad. But, what if there is a way to provide quality healthcare to every Namibian across the board, using the same amount of resources you would have used only to provide for only a fraction of the population? 

Now, the whole Psemas idea is retrogressive and further perpetuates inequalities in our society. Ownership-majority of the medical or health practices in Namibia is owned by previously advantaged Namibians and by foreigners. This means that for the last five years we have given N$11.1 billion to privilege at the expense of the people. This further means that we have only made trust fund babies richer and deposited public funds in foreign accounts unprovoked. Already, it is within the public domain that there have been fraudulent claims at Psemas; we are also aware that the management of the scheme is proving to be inefficient and inconvenient to its clientele. 

My disposition is to do away with Psemas. This will give us an opportunity to revive our public healthcare service. In ten years, we can have a new proactive and loftily efficient public healthcare system. Using the available data and assuming the public service remains the same in ten years, we can have N$26 billion that we can spend on upgrading our healthcare system. This money can be sourced through a loan and the interest can be paid by the employees’ contributions, which they would normally pay to the scheme. Meaning that all government employees will now be treated at government health facilities. This will also mean that public servants will develop a nature of urgency when dealing with public health issues, as it will directly affect them. 

Healthcare should not be commercialised. Every Namibian deserves access to high-quality health services regardless of their income bracket or status in society. The upgrading can be done without following normal procurement procedures but rather spending all the money on the actual inputs and removing any profit-making entity. This is in an effort to prevent the inflation of tenders witnessed in the past years in Namibia; but also as an approach to involve as many Namibians as possible. This project must enhance national service, it must increase national pride and nationhood, Namibians must be able to take ownership of their healthcare. We can learn from the railway initiatives of the Founding father of the Namibian nation, especially in this era where we have thousands of unemployed but educated young people.

 On cost estimates, about N$4 billion can construct 400 high-level clinics, this will drastically reduce the burden on hospitals. The construction of a hospital at the standard of the Lady Pohamba is about N$500 million, we can then construct 14 more countrywide which will collectively cost N$7 billion. We can spend an additional 5 billion on highly specialized medical equipment, machinery, research and pharmaceuticals. Private healthcare facilities that might be adversely affected can enter into public-private partnerships with government to provide specialized services and research. 

Such a bold step and huge investment have numerous benefits for the country. Our institutions of higher learning are producing more and more health professionals every year. Namibia will have an opportunity to be leading in health research and innovation, Namibia will then also be a hub for medical services in Africa thus, bringing in the much-needed foreign currency. All Namibians will be provided with high-quality medical services, and we know that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. It will also attract more investments in medical infrastructure and or technology development. It will open up more industries and create more jobs in the private sector. 

This proposal also means that after ten years we will be saving over N$1.5 billion per year, where expenditure is done in a loftily potent and well-scrutinised manner. Finally, savings can be used to upscale preventative medicine in Namibia. It is in the public domain that as a country we are experiencing outbreaks of malaria, Hepatitis E and Covid-19, there is a further upsurge in the number of hypertensive, diabetic, psychotic and stress patients countrywide. 

Namibian citizens should not suffer from preventable medical conditions at all; the adverse effects of ill-health are at times unrecoverable. A healthcare system with a strong preventive approach provides enormous savings from the high cost of curative and rehabilitative medicine. It strengthens public health and ensures that citizens are physically healthy, that they are productive and have a sense of belonging in their community.   

2021-03-30  Staff Reporter

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