Rwanda PM laments poor service delivery in health sector

Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi (L)chats with the Minister of Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho after a health stakeholders meeting. The New Times / T. Kisambira

Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi has highlighted poor service delivery among health service providers as an issue that requires urgent corrective measures.

He made the observation yesterday during a meeting with heads of health centres and hospitals in the country to discuss ways of improving services.

“We have now embarked on the issue of improving service delivery. Therefore, we must ensure that everyone has access to adequate and required services. It was discovered that one in four tourists, who come to Rwanda, appreciate our health services. What about others?” he posed.

The Premier noted that instead of attending to patients, some doctors are busy talking on their phones, a practice he instructed should change forthwith.

“I went to a hospital recently and the doctor started receiving calls instead of attending to me. If they did that to me, imagine what happens to people upcountry or those without money. This is a bad culture that should be stopped immediately,” he said.

However, the meeting ascertained that the health sector faces numerous challenges that include poor buildings, inadequate materials, fewer doctors as well as lack of enough financial capacity to develop health centres.

The country’s top hospital, King Faisal Hospital, has in the past elicited most complaints as patients prefer to fly out of the country in search of better services.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the hospital’s director, Dr. Alex Butera, discounted the negative perception about his hospital saying it was unwarranted, saying service delivery had doubled recently.

“You cannot get international accreditation if you’re providing poor services. People are talking about only bad things. But they leave out the achievements. Things have changed and we are providing quality services,” he noted.

He added that many patients, especially top government officials in the region, seek treatment at the facility, adding that if the complaints were true, it would not attract such a calibre of people.

The  Minister of Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, pointed out that there was a communication breakdown between health providers and patients. She, however, revealed that a major campaign to change the image of the country’s health sector was in the pipeline.

“There is still the problem of language among nurses and doctors. One lady lost her child and doctors told her not to worry as she would get another one. Imagine if you were that mother, how would you feel? Therefore, we must change our language if we are to provide quality services,” she insisted.

Among the recommendations arrived at and read by the Minister in charge of Cabinet Affairs, Protais Musoni, it was agreed that doctors and other health providers should desist from using phones while at work while health workers ought to be exemplary in whatever they did.

Participants also agreed that suggestion boxes in all hospitals and health centres should be opened by mayors instead of hospital managers. Additional training among health workers was another recommendation.

It was further recommended that the phone-numbers of the heads of hospitals and mayors should be put at the entrance of health care facilities for people to call in case they are not attended to.

Prime Minister Habumuremyi tasked the Health Minister to assess whether the recommendations are implemented within the next three months.

By Eric Kabeera, The New Times

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