While moving a motion on universal healthcare this week, leader of the official opposition McHenry Venaani claimed only 18% of Namibians have regular access to private health services.
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) president said it is incumbent upon lawmakers to advocate relentlessly for an equitable provision of quality healthcare for all Namibians.
“It is possible and can be achieved - to ensure that all Namibians, irrespective of their income level, lead socially and economically productive lives,” he said.
He said a key principle in this regard is service according to needs, and payment according to means.
“We cannot afford to have a situation where a poor mother from the informal settlements with a sickly son who is suffering from a tumour be turned away by a private hospital because of the lack of funds to pay for such an operation to keep her son alive,” Venaani said.
He said universal healthcare (UHC) means there is a healthcare system that provides coverage to at least 90% of citizens, something that is desperately needed, especially at a time when families are suffering from a massive increase in poverty that precedes the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Having universal healthcare coverage will foster people’s equitable access to health services while preventing them from being pushed into poverty when having to pay for such services. It will also ease the burden on our state facilities by giving poor Namibians a guarantee that they can be treated at a facility of their choice - be it public or private,” shared Venaani.
He provided examples of countries such as Australia, Barbados, the UK and many others who have successfully implemented UHC coverage.
“Thailand, with a per capita health expenditure almost half that of Namibia (US$385 compared to US$619 in Namibia), reached universal coverage in 2010. In Africa, Rwanda, for instance, a country with a per capita income of merely US$644 (as opposed to Namibia’s US$4 328), has achieved near-universal coverage within eight years, using a modified version of social health insurance,” stated Venaani.
At the recent launch of the national quality management policy and other documents last month, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said the value of UHC depends on its ability to provide safe, efficient, and good-quality services to all people, everywhere when required.
“The policy will, therefore, pursue the following dimensions of quality, accessibility, affordability, effectiveness, efficiency, safety, people-centeredness, timeliness, equitability and integrated healthcare services,” Shangula stated.
He said the high-level strategies to implement this policy will include improving quality management systems; engaging and empowering patients, families, and communities; improving patient and healthcare worker safety; and improving clinical practice.
Shangula added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has once again highlighted that high-quality essential health services are vital to the nation’s health security. Renewed focus on the quality of health services will position Namibia to respond effectively to this crisis, recover from it, and be better prepared for future public health threats and events.”