Govt’s SA debt may cost lives of many Batswana
The Ministry of Health is cash strapped and unable to pay bills for patients referred to South Africa for medical attention, The Voice can reveal.
Most of the victims of the ministry’s money woes are children, many of whom were recently discharged and effectively sent home to die because South African referral hospitals will not accept patients from Botswana on credit basis from a government that has owed them millions of Pulas over a period of months.
Two distraught parents of the affected children broke their silence this week.
Lashing out in anger and frustration, parents whose children have been on the waiting list to travel to South African for life saving operations since the first quarter of the year, have revealed that South African hospitals have flatly refused to admit patients referred by Botswana government because of accumulated debts running into millions of Pulas.
Desperate and at her wits end one of the concerned parents, Hilda Kapele, said, “My daughter’s life is at risk. I have just been discharged from hospital. As you can see, her stomach is swollen, full with a tumor, but the hospital says there is nothing much they can do because South African hospitals cannot operate on her until Botswana government pays their debt
Kapele’s two- year -old daughter, Tumi Kapele’s kidney has shut down.
According to the 34- year old mother, her baby was diagnosed with the tumor in her right kidney and scheduled for surgery seven months ago but up to now they are still on the waiting list.
“At some point she was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital, but the doctors there said they could not operate on her as it was too risky and she needed a specialist. Now my worry is we are wasting a lot of time and exposing the other kidney to the tumor,” pointed out the desperate mother, from Werda village before adding bitterly, “What this country is doing to us is very bad. They are hiding the truth from Batswana and we are suffering.”
Another distressed mother, Kakale Mmusi, 33, whose three-year-old son, Atang August Mmusi, is in dire need of a kidney biopsy has taken to social media and the streets of Gaborone to seek donations for his medical bill following lack of medical assistance from the national health care.
Mmusi, who says she needs at least P30, 000 for the operation alone, excluding other medical expenses explained in a separate interview that she had approached the Ministry of Health after being told by Princess Marina Hospital that there was no money to refer the boy to a specialist in SA.
“I was then advised to seek donations from members of the public,” she said.
At the time of going to press the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Princess Marina Hospital had not yet responded to The Voice questionnaire on the matter.
Nonetheless, an officer at the Ministry had stated that Botswana’s medical bill runs into millions and that the government was planning to settle it ‘very soon’.
The officer further revealed that the delay in transferring patients to South Africa was caused by government’s plans to cut deals with cheaper hospitals as their current partners were charging exorbitant fees.
Meanwhile, in his State of the Nation Address on Monday, President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi noted that the scarcity of specialists in the health sector remains a serious challenge for the country.
He added that this has resulted in increased referrals of patients to other countries, especially South Africa.
“In this regard, government intends to provide high level services in areas such as cardiac surgery, organ transplant, among others within the country. To achieve this, government has taken a deliberate decision to increase training of medical specialists as well as providing appropriate medical equipment,” Masisi said.
The opening of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital at the University of Botswana, scheduled for March 2019, is expected to ensure that high-level health services are provided thereby reducing the cost of external referrals.
However, for the two youngsters and their helpless parents, this will likely come too late.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from OP failed as the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi did not pick or return our calls.