MPs to investigate Ministry of Health

Parliament will create a special team to investigate why the Ministry of Health is falling short of its mandate. The decision was reached after the Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, appeared before Members of Parliament.
Dr Binagwaho explains health issues at Parliament yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)
Dr Binagwaho explains health issues at Parliament yesterday. (Timothy Kisambira)

Parliament will create a special team to investigate why the Ministry of Health is falling short of its mandate.

The decision was reached after the Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, appeared before Members of Parliament.

Dr Binagwaho, alongside other senior officials from the ministry, were appearing in Parliament, on Tuesday and yesterday. However, their reports left the lawmakers in doubt.

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Members of Parliament follow Health ministers presentation at Parliament.

Issues that will be investigated include the poor performance of the Community Health Insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Santé, whose subscription base has dropped in recent years.

The scheme also owes significant amounts of money to hospitals in different parts of the country, and is generally characterised by poor management.

“Is it that there is no clear policy for the health sector and its planning, or it is related to the failure to conduct thorough follow up of activities?” the legislators asked Dr Binagwaho.

“There simply needs to be a serious assessment on how to improve Mutuelle de Santé,” MP Eugene Barikana added.

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Hon Mukabalisa Donatille speaker of parliament (L) speaks to the house as her deputy Hon. Mukama Abbas looks on. 

The management of Mutuelle de Santé has since moved to the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB).

The move is expected to restore the glory of the scheme that helped almost every Rwandan benefit from quality health care.

The investigators will also look into poor coordination in the delivery of health care across the country.

Reports of overcrowding in referral hospitals have been known for a while, but nothing seems to get done, the MPs said.

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MP Marie Rose Mureshyankwano the chairperson of the parliamentary Committe on Social Affairs waits for a reaction from the minister.

“We want to get answers on what is the plan to reduce the number of patients seeking treatment at referral hospitals. The doctors are doing their job but they are often overwhelmed by the big number of patients,” MP Ignacienne Nyirarukundo told the minister on Tuesday.

The MPs were also irked by reports that equipment is procured, delivered to hospitals, but remains idle.

Another burning issue was malaria. The legislators demanded to know why cases of malaria were increasing, yet the country had previously managed to significantly cut down malaria infections.

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Health minister Dr Agnes Binagwaho (L) chats with Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Jeanne d'Arc Uwimanimpaye.

There are reports that the ministry procured bed nets that were not good enough to protect users from mosquitoes.

Estimates put the number of such nets at three million in use.

“We need more explanations; we need to establish responsibility so that those who allowed substandard mosquito nets into the country are punished,” said MP Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi.

The minister explained that the government is in the process of suing the factory that supplied the bed nets to Rwanda so that the government is compensated.

“It is our responsibility to sue the factory (that supplied substandard mosquito nets) so it can do reparation to the people of Rwanda,” Dr Binagwaho said.

The MPs wanted to know whether there was a link between the inefficient nets and the increase in malaria cases.

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MP Conie Bwiza asks Dr Agnes Binagwaho to present in Kinyarwanda.

The Ministry of Health is still redistributing safe mosquito nets to prevent further cases of malaria.

Other issues discussed include the losses the government incurred from procuring more drugs than needed. About Rwf347 million was wasted in drugs that expired while in stock.

The MPs said the explanations they got were not convincing, but Dr Binagwaho said she will shed more light on the issues raised until they understand how officials at the Ministry of Health have handled health sector issues.

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MP Theoneste Karenzi listens to Dr Binagwaho's explanations. (All photos by Timothy Kisambira)

“I just feel that they need more explanations and we are going to give them more explanations; as simple as that,” she told The New Times shortly after appearing in Parliament yesterday.

Issues of poor service delivery have marred the health sector with reports alleging corruption and conflict of interest involving senior staff of the ministry.

These issues leave the MPs with their plates full, and may require input from other institutions that carry out investigations.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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