LUNGU HAS TRANSFORMED ZAMBIA’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

By Antonio  Mwanza
edgar-lungu-inaugurationWhen the Patriotic Front (PF) came into office in 2011, they found a healthcare system littered with a chronic shortage of  health personnel,  dilapidated and inadequate health infrastructure, unacceptably high mortality rates, huge budget deficits, lack of medicines and equipment in hospitals coupled with a high disease burden particularly high incidences of Malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Literally,  the Patriotic Front inherited a broken down healthcare system that needed broad and ambitious, well-cordinated and  well-financed reforms to correct.
Zambia has in the  last  five  years, under the leadership of President Edgar Chagwa Lungu witnessed unprecedented development in the health sector, having achieved huge milestones  especially  in  the  areas  of infrastructure  development, training and recruitment of health personnel, disease  control, procurement and disbursement of essential drugs, and  in  curbing  maternal  and  child  deaths.
1. INFRASTRUCTURE
From 1964 up to the time PF won elections, Zambia had only one University Teaching Hospital popularly known as UTH, in Lusaka. Further, the country had a handful of district hospitals dotted around with very few health posts, forcing many people to walk long distances in search of health services. However, in the last 5 years, President Lungu and the Patriotic Front Government have established four fully  fledged  tertiary  level  hospitals  after  Livingstone and Mwanawasa hospitals were upgraded  to Teaching Hospitals,  joining  Kitwe, Ndola and  Lusaka hospitals.
These tertiary level  hospitals  are  fully  equipped  with  modern  diagnostic  equipment such  as  computerised  tomography  machines  and  renal  dialysis  units  needed  to handle  complicated  cases.   Further, Government has  installed  a  modern  cardiac catheterisation  laboratory  at  the  University  Teaching  Hospital  in Lusaka aimed  at  handling cardiology  interventional  procedures. Furthermore, Government has opened a newly built Specialised Kidney Transplant hospital to tackle the high kidney related disease cases as well as to save millions of Kwachas spent on sending patients abroad annually for specialist kidney treatment.
As if that is not enough, the PF Government has installed advanced  ophthalmology  equipment  at  UTH to  handle  all  eye  related  problems.
With regards to cancer, Government  has  completed  phase  II  of  the  Cancer  Diseases  Hospital  to  provide  complete  treatment  facilities  with  252  bed  space capacity to enhance efficient service  delivery  for cancer patients.
On the other hand, Government has continued to establish regional medical stores hubs with Chipata, Choma, Mansa, Mpika and Luanshya  operationalised. In addition, medical stores this year expanded its storage capacity from 7,000 pallets to 32,000 pallets.
And out of the 650 health posts under construction, a total of 362 have been completed and in use, with 59 completed in 2019. A total of 20 mini- hospitals out of the 108 have reached 90 percent completion.
Out of the 36 district hospitals under construction, 7 have been completed in 2019 bringing the total number to 16. Two general hospitals are under construction in Petauke and Chinsali and are at 90 percent and 80 percent completion, respectively.
2. RECRUITMENT OF HEALTH PERSONNEL
When PF came into office, Zambia had a shortage of over 50% of nurses and doctors required to effectively serve the entire country.
In the last 8 years, the PF Government has recruited a total of 21, 159 nurses and doctors as at October, 2019.  The Government targets to recruit a total of 30, 000 health workers by 2021.
Further, 250 specialist medical doctors have been trained in various medical fields with an additional 250 completing their training in 2021. Further progress  has been made with the opening of the newly built Levy Mwanawasa Medical University, with 3,076 students enrolled in various medical fields. This will close up the gap between patients and health practitioners leading to an efficient service delivery.
3. DISTRIBUTION OF ESSENTIAL DRUGS
In a bid to ensure availability of essential drugs in all health facilities, the PF Government has significantly increased the budgetary allocation with regards to the procurement and storage of drugs. In order to decentralise the distribution of essential drugs, Government has continued establishing regional medical stores hubs with Chipata,  Choma, Mansa, Mpika and Luanshya being operationalised.
4. DISEASE CONTROL
Zambia under the Patriotic Front has recorded 60% reduction in Malaria deaths, which was once the country’s number one killer disease. This is because of strategic interventions Government has undertaken which include, among others,  the spraying of houses the and distribution of mosquito nets. Last year alone, Government distributed 10.7 million mosquito nets  and sprayed 95% of the targeted houses.
Due to the robust response, Government is providing free Anti-Retroviral drugs to 1, 070, 000 out of the 1,200, 000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Zambia.
To ensure that every  Zambian, irrespective of one’s economic status has access  to healthcare, President Edgar Lungu enacted the National Health Insurance  Law to provide for sound financing to the health sector.  Under this scheme, the poor, the disabled and the aged will be paying zero kwacha towards their health bill.
Indeed PF and President Lungu have transformed our healthcare system and turned into an example to be pursued by many countries in the southern region.
The Author, Antonio Mwanza is the Deputy Media Director for Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF)

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