Tanzania@62: Massive investment in health sector pays off

AS Tanzania marks 62 years of independence, 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 62 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 also are brought closer to the people.

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.

Before independence people used traditional medicines to treat and prevent themselves from various diseases before the introduction of western medicines. The western health services were dominated with inequalities and were limited, denying majority of citizens to the important health care.

Before independence the country had a total of 1,343 hospitals and dispensaries which had 18,832 bed capacity.

Until 1960 there were only 12 large hospitals with 3,046 bed capacity. Of the hospitals seven were owned by the government, four by religious institutions and one was a private facility.

The hospitals were located in various areas in the country including Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Moshi, Peramiho, Mwanza, Tabora, Morogoro, Bumbuli, Ifakara Dodoma, Ndanda and Sumve. The bed ratio was one bed in every 1000 people (1:1000).

After Tanzania attained independence, the late father of the nation Julius Nyerere directed more efforts in fighting three enemies namely poverty, ignorance and disease.

His successors also continued the fight in order to realise the dream through execution of good health policies and cooperation religious institutions, private organisations, development stakeholders and citizens in general.

The efforts undertaken by all government phases in 62 years after independence have significantly transformed the health sector as the number of health centres at all levels has increased to 8,537 compared 1,343 health centres in 1960. According to the Ministry of Health, the increase is equivalent to 84.26 per cent of which 64 per cent are owned by the government, 9 per cent religious institutions and 27 per cent are private institutions The health centres network has also expanded and the services are now close to the people.

Currently there 7,242 dispensaries, 926 health centres, and 178 district hospitals and 151 other hospitals.

The country is currently having about 28 specialised hospitals at regional level, six zonal hospitals, and five hospitals with specialised services and one National hospital – Muhimbili National Hospital.

According to the ministry, all the health facilities have a total of 90,488 beds which is equivalent to an increase of 71,656 beds equals to 79.18 per cent.

The ministry report indicates that currently the health centres ratio is one health centre per 6,751.5 people (1: 6,751.5), contrary to 1:40000- 50000 before independence.

The success indicates that Tanzania has attained the United Nations goals of availability of health services by considering the number of people and geographical factors.

The hospital bed ration is one bed per 637 people 1:637 compared to 1:1000 before independence, The government, however continued to direct more resources for improvement of health services which have transformed the provision of health services in the country.

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.

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 at 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 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 machine.

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