Universal healthcare needs funds

Monday March 11 2019


African countries committed to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to healthcare but only two nations are meeting this goal. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA  

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Experts are calling for more resources to be allocated to the health sector to boost health services and universal health coverage.

The goal is to enable all citizens to have access to quality health services without suffering financial hardship. The call was made during last week’s Universal Health Coverage summit in Kigali.

Under the Abuja Declaration of 2001, African Union countries pledged to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budget to improve the health sector, and urged donor countries to scale up support. However, only two countries have complied.

Despite Rwanda being among the leading countries in healthcare promotion and achieving universal health coverage targets with 90 per cent of the population covered, it is only allocating around 8.4 per cent of its total budget as of 2018/2019, which affects services.

Despite funding shortfalls in the health sector, there are still cases of misuse of the funds.

According to a recent Auditor-General’s report, over Rwf2.2 billion was squandered due to poor record-keeping and errors in financial statements prepared by district hospitals.

Even as Rwanda committed to universal health coverage, it still faces challenges to do with skilled workers leaving the sector for better paying careers. Another challenge is increasing costs of drugs.

Diane Gashumba, the minister of health said the government can’t force people to take up or stay in a career in medicine.

“We have a shortage of doctors, but we are trying to train more people,” said Dr Gashumba. The government targets one doctor for every 10,000 people before 2020.

The country has also employed the use of digital services to deliver healthcare.

Officials from the ministry of health said the government has been banking on digital healthcare services among other initiatives to tackle the shortage of medical services providers.

According to a recent government Health Outlook report, a population of around 12 million people results in one physician for 15,428 patients, which makes access to medical care challenging, especially in rural areas.

The World Health Organisation recommends one doctor for 1,000 people.