Great strides in health

TANZANIA: AS President Samia Suluhu Hassan marks her third anniversary as Tanzania’s Head of State, the country has recorded tremendous achievement in health care services resulted from the massive investment undertaken by the government.

The country’s health sector has transformed significantly in the past three years following the government commitment to ensure that all important services, including routine, specialised and super specialised services are not only available in the country but are brought closer to the people.

The government has also continued to introduce new healthcare services such as reconstructive and cosmetic surgery to save costs incurred in seeking the services and also retain the money which could have been spent abroad for the services.

It has also introduced intragastric balloon placement weight-loss procedure, whereby so far, a total of 45 patients have undergone the procedure.

To realise its goal, the government invested heavily in infrastructure, medical equipment and supplies as well as training of medical personnel, a move that has strengthened the country’s position as a healthcare hub for medical tourism.

The three years of President Samia’s leadership, also saw a turning point in the health sector after the National Assembly unanimously endorsed the Universal Health Insurance Bill aimed at ensuring widespread access to healthcare services for citizens through a comprehensive health insurance system.

The bill was endorsed after five years of deliberations and was signed into law by President Samia On December 5, last year. UHC will relieve Tanzanians, especially the most vulnerable ones from digging deeper into their pockets to service their medical bills.

According to Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu, the UHC endeavour has been supported by major improvements undertaken by the government to ensure reliable access to health service delivery for all Tanzanians. Addressing the National Assembly for the first time in Dodoma after she was sworn in as President on March 19, 2021, Samia expressed the government commitment to ensure that no woman dies while giving birth.

“When I was the Vice President, I launched a project dubbed “Jiongeze Tuwavushe Salama” to encourage participation of all stakeholders in reducing maternal and child deaths … this is my heartfelt project … personally I become very sad to see women dying while giving birth due to factors that could be prevented,” she said.

President Samia noted that the campaign aimed at ensuring women and newborns remained safe. Tabling the 2023/ 2024 budget estimates for the Ministry of Health, Minister for the docket Ms Mwalimu said that the government has continued to implement various strategies aimed at reducing maternal deaths.

“During the execution of the previous budget, there were 943 maternal deaths compared to 982 deaths in the same period in 2021/22. This represents is equivalent to 4 per cent decrease in maternal deaths,” Ms Mwalimu said.

She said the strategies include strengthening service delivery infrastructure, increasing access to healthcare during pregnancy by ensuring that pregnant women attend clinics to receive timely and appropriate care, ensuring the availability of essential medicines for pregnant women and access to safe blood for mothers who need blood transfusions, provide on-the-job training for health workers and collaborating with professional associations.

The latest Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey (2022 TDHS-MIS), shows that the country has cut down maternal mortality rate by 80 per cent.

This significant stride implies that Tanzania is on the right track towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three of ensuring healthy lives while promoting the well-being of all ages, according to the Head of State.

“The report shows that maternal mortality rate in Tanzania has gone down from 530 deaths per 100,000 live births (2015/2016) to 104 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2022… this is a very huge step and 80 per cent drop is a big relief,” said Dr Samia during the launch of the report.

She noted that the SDG has directed that by 2030, the number of maternal mortality rate in respective countries should not exceed 70 deaths per 100,000 lives, therefore the drop to 104 deaths was a good indication of possibility to arrive at the set goals.

Minister Mwalimu said in insuring provision of better health services in the country, the ministry has continued to coordinate construction of various infrastructures and provision of medical services.

As of March 2023, there were a total of 11,040 health facilities, of which 430 were hospitals, 1,030 health centres, 7,458 dispensaries, 906 clinics and 1,216 private laboratories compared to 8,549 facilities in March 2022.

Furthermore, governmentowned facilities were 6,682, equivalent to 60 per cent of all facilities. Faith-based organisations owned 1,040 facilities equivalent to 9.4 per cent of all facilities, and the private sector owned 3,318 facilities, equivalent to 30 per cent of all facilities in the country.

In terms of hospital beds, as of March 2023, there were a total of 95,868 beds compared to 93,356 beds in the same period in 2021/22 of which, 49,143 beds are at the hospital level, 24,957 beds are at health centres, 20,582 beds are at dispensaries, and 1,186 beds are available at clinics and other facilities.

The Minister further said that the government has continued to ensure availability of medicines, equipment, medical supplies and laboratory reagents in health facilities is satisfactory.

The Ministry also ensured that specialised and superspecialised medical services in the country are enhanced and bring them closer to the people.

“These services are provided by the National Hospital, Zonal Hospitals, Specialised Hospitals, and Regional Referral Hospitals. In a period from July 2022 to March 2023, a total of 4,797,988 patients were served in these hospitals compared to 5,754,421 patients who were served in these hospitals in the same period in 2021/22,” she said.

To date, Tanzanians do not need to travel outside the country to access services such as kidney transplant, cochlear implant, bone marrow transplant and interventional radiology services among others which are available at Muhimbili National Hospital.

The country has also recorded notable achievements in cardiovascular services by investing in advanced equipment that enabled the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac institute (JKCI) to handle complicated cases which were being referred abroad.

In a period of three years of President Samia’s administration, the facility performed closed heart surgery to 1,190 patients and open-heart surgery to 345 patients Currently, JKCI serves patients from across all the regions in Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, who are referred from regional referral and designated district hospitals for tertiary level cardiovascular medical care.

It also receives patients from neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Comoro, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi.

The government also invested heavily on the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) as part of efforts to strengthen provision of services by installing modern equipment for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Currently, the ORCI has several machines providing chemotherapy treatment to patients.

Modern equipment has enabled the institute to serve up to 300 patients who need chemotherapy daily. On the other hand, medicines for leading types of cancers are currently available by 100 per cent.

The Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI) offers specialised services through the use of modern machines, whereby in three years since President Samia assumed the presidency the facility conducted spine surgery to 229 patients and brain surgery to 108 patients.

Medical tourism has continued to be strengthened after the government made initiative to enhance specialised and supers-specialised services in the country to attract patients from outside the country.

According to the government, in a period of three years of Dr Samia’s leadership, a total of 2,548 patients from neighbouring countries were treated at various facilities in the country.

In effort to curb the shortage of specialist doctors and nurses in regional referral hospitals, leading to inadequate healthcare services and long waiting times for patients the sixth phase government also introduced the Samia Suluhu Super Specialist programme.

In 2023/2024 a total of 601 health personnel have received scholarship to undergo super specialist train within and outside the country.

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