18 Mar 2015 10:30am
WINDHOEK, 18 MAR (NAMPA) The Minister of Health and Social Services says Namibia should provide Tuberculosis (TB) and Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) to citizens from neighbouring states, as the key challenges regarding communicable diseases in the country pertains to the cross-border movement of persons.
Dr Richard Kamwi made the statement in Parliament on Tuesday when he addressed the house on preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
This is particularly so given the anecdotal reports of a vibrant 'medical tourism' industry characterised by patients from Angola travelling to Namibia to seek treatment at private and public health facilities, he said.
Demonstrating the magnitude of the problem by numbers, Kamwi stated that about 40 per cent of patients admitted to the Katutura State Hospitals TB unit and 30 per cent of patients who commenced treatment at the Engela District Hospital in the Ohangwena Region are Angolan nationals.
Kamwi said there is a need to ensure that the current situation does not significantly derail the commendable progress Namibia has made in TB and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) control.
He explained that untreated persons with TB or HIV, whether from Angola or Namibia, remain the most significant threat to keeping the diseases under control in the country.
Given that we cannot control the constant movement of persons along common borders due to family-ties, inter-marriages and economic needs, it is important to ensure that this movement does not jeopardise disease control efforts, he said.
Kamwi said the World Health Organisation (WHO) refrains countries from turning away sick foreign nationals from neighbouring countries when they are in need of access to health services.
He indicated that although the country's strategy and resources are currently intended for Namibians alone, there are downfalls of an inhibitive system.
Some of these downfalls include medicine sharing among patients, potentially resulting in the development of resistance to the administered drugs.
Other downfalls are false identity and contact details result in failure to trace patients who default treatment, false treatment history result in the administration of inappropriate treatment regimens and untreated infectious patients cause continued disease transmission.
For these reasons it is preferable for all these patients to come freely and openly to our facilities if we are to prevent further spread of TB and exacerbation of the problem in the country, he said.
It is with this background that Kamwi highlighted the importance of Cabinets approval that Angolans with TB and other infectious diseases be treated free of charge at a point of service delivery in Namibia.
Kamwi noted that this has financial and resource implications for the country adding, Cabinet also approved our request that the Namibian government engages with the Angolan government to work towards developing an agreement whereby my ministry is able to obtain reimbursement for all the services Namibian health facilities provide to Angolan citizens free of charge.