Health sector: What stood out in 2016

The health sector has had a lot happening in the course of the year and as it we wait to welcome the New Year, we look back at the events that made news in the this sector and the impact they have had.
With the maternity leave law now in place, working mothers will be able to look after their children for the first three months while receiving their full pay. / File
With the maternity leave law now in place, working mothers will be able to look after their children for the first three months while receiving their full pay. / File

The health sector has had a lot happening in the course of the year and as it we wait to welcome the New Year, we look back at the events that made news in the this sector and the impact they have had.

The maternity leave law comes into force: With effect from last month, the maternity leave benefits’ scheme became operational and mothers can now enjoy their full pay while on maternity leave without being torn in between choices on whether to they should forego 80 per cent of their salary and stay home with their newborn babies or return to work.

Before, the law required that during the first six weeks of a mother’s maternity leave, a mother had the right to her full salary, but was obliged to return to work or get only 20 per cent of her salary in case she chose to stay home for the remaining six weeks of her maternity leave. The new law, now in force, facilitates employed mothers to get their full monthly salary while on maternity leave for three months.

Introduction of drones for medical supplies: This year technology seemed to lessen the hustle that comes with delivery of medical supplies, especially in the rural areas. Health officials had previously been challenged with issues concerning delivery of medical supplies, more so to the countryside.

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Drone technology is hoped to ease delivery of health supplies in rural areas. / File

Besides the delays in transporting supplies, sometimes the personnel were required to travel to ensure proper follow up, which to some extent caused inconveniences. However, the introduction of drones has championed efficiency in medical services where by a delivery that required four to five hours can now be done in only 30 minutes. This will see a high improvement in the quality of healthcare services delivered.

A drive to ease access to ARV’S launched: The Ministry of Health, through the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) launched a new anti-HIV/AIDS drive that will see people living with the virus minimise the burden of frequent movements done in search for monthly dosages.

The campaign, which also aims at creating community ownership in fighting new HIV infections and better utilisation of the available anti-HIV services, will see patients getting a 3-month dosage of anti-retro viral drugs in order to cut on the monthly movements done to get the drugs. Speaking at the event, James Kamanzi, the deputy director-general of RBC, hailed the new effort saying it will help the country reach its targets in the campaign against HIV/AIDS, including the 2030 global target of completely wiping out new infections.

Fundraising for the first cardiac centre in Rwanda: First Lady Jeannette Kagame joined the fundraising gala by Team Heart for the first cardiac centre in Rwanda. The main aim of this drive was to bring sustainable cardiac care to Rwanda and East Africa. The First Lady received the Humanitarian Award at the event for her dedication in uplifting the lives of the most vulnerable populations, through various empowerment initiatives, including those spearheaded by the Imbuto Foundation in the past 15 years.

Free malaria treatment for poor members of the community: A new government drive was launched last month aimed at offering free malaria treatment to poor members of the community. The initiative aims at ensuring that people in Ubudehe categories one and two receive free malaria treatment.

Addressing a press conference, Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health, emphasised the need to ensure that people in these categories get free malaria treatment. Figures from the health ministry earlier in the year indicated that the country registered close to two million malaria cases last year, almost four times more than the 514,000 cases reported in 2012. Other measures that have been taken in the malaria fight include use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, slashing bushes, clearing stagnant water and indoor residual spraying to clear all traces of the female anopheles mosquito. With this new development, it is hoped that malaria cases will reduce drastically in days ahead.

Butaro Cancer hospital’s Lab upgraded: A modern laboratory was opened in October at the hospital. The newly-established facility was furnished with a rapid tissue processor, autostainer, embedding machine and slide scanner and with this, the quality of treatment offered to cancer patients is set to improve highly courtesy of this new initiative. Dr Fidel Rubagumya, the founder and board chair at Rwanda Children’s Cancer Relief, says the upgrade will see the hospital become a referral centre as it will be fully equipped from infrastructure to personnel. This, he says, will decongest other main referral hospitals which will improve care as the ratio of doctors to patient will decrease.

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Dr Tharcisse Mpunga, the medical director at Butaro Hospital, explains how the new machines will boost cancer treatment. / File

“With equipments like the CT-scan and other diagnostics available, no patient will have to struggle through the referral process, also with a new university on its side, already new infrastructures including roads are elevating in the area. Butaro is becoming another big city in Rwanda soon there will be improved care to cancer patients,” Rubagumya said.

Revision of medical tariff: There were some changes made on how patients will be paying for medical services and this will depend on the health insurance they are using. Patients registered with RAMA/RSSB and private insurance firms are the ones affected by the change. Those who use MMI and other private health insurances will pay an extra 15 per cent, while those who use RAMA/ RSSB will see an increment of 25 per cent. However, the tariffs for those who use Mutuelle de Sante remain unchanged. It was in a press conference that the Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, announced these changes, explaining that the increment will help hospitals improve service delivery and also increase capacity of hospitals to buy equipment and drugs.

Introduction of the 24/7 condom distribution kiosks initiative: The initiative, dubbed 24/7 CK, calls for placement of ‘condom kiosks’ in HIV high risk areas in Kigali city. This was part of a broader effort to fight the spread of HIV by encouraging safe sex practices with an emphasis on geographic hotspots and high risk groups. Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the head of HIV, STI and other blood borne infections division at Rwanda Bio Medical Centre, says this initiative has seen an increase in the demand of condoms, a sign that people are actually practising safe sex, which is helpful in the prevention of HIV. “We have seen an increase in demand of condoms, especially in the hotspots and this is good. We plan on expanding this initiative to the whole country,” he says.

Launch of new sexual reproductive health campaign: In a bid to involve the youth in addressing the challenges related to their sexual reproductive health, a campaign dubbed ‘Innovation Accelerator’ was launched. The campaign, which is expected to run up to January 23, 2017, calls for young innovators and entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-30 to submit their business proposals in response to the challenge of “access to quality sexual and reproductive information and services for young people”. It is expected to serve as a working hub for young people to think critically and creatively about issues related to sexual and reproductive health.

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IN BRIEF

  • Dr Diane Gashumba, who formerly the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, was named the new health minister. She replaced Dr Agnès Binagwaho.

  • King Faisal Hospital has received the third accreditation from the Council for Health Services Accreditation of South Africa (COHSASA), a healthcare accrediting body. The accreditation is given to a health facility that provides health services in compliance with national and international standards of quality health services. The accreditation will be valid until September, 2019.

  • An estimated 120,000 children and mothers from vulnerable families are expected to start enjoying free nutritious foods this festive season once a fortified foods factory starts production, according to officials. The factory, that is near completion, is located in the Kigali Special Economic Zone in Gasabo District. It is a joint venture between the Government of Rwanda and Africa Improved Foods, a global foods manufacturer with a local franchise.

 

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