Still to be implemented, Cameroon’s much heralded Universal Health Care Coverage Plan is already swimming in troubled waters owing to a massive lack of personnel.
Public Health Minister, Dr Manaouda Malachie declared that the pilot phase of the Universal Health Care plan has been fully developed and is ready for implementation. Dr Manaouda made the pronouncement on December 8, 2022, as he addressed lawmakers in a special plenary sitting in Yaoundé on the plan which has been in gestation for the past years.
“We have finalized the pilot phase. In 2023 we are going to implement this pilot phase. The priority is mother and children under 42 days,” he told reporters after the session.
The pilot phase, he explained, is set to provide healthcare for certain conditions including tuberculosis, malaria, and malnutrition. During the exchange with lawmakers, many sought to understand the effectiveness of the plan as well as other factors hampering effective healthcare in Cameroon.
Among them were Hon Kum John Njji and Hon Adamu Edward who were bothered about how the program would be implemented in the most remote parts of the country, and the lack of health personnel.
In response, Minister Manaouda said government’s response is gradual and based on urgency and priority. “We cannot provide immediate responses to all problems being face on the field… we focus on priorities and then continue across the national territory,” he explained.
Dr Manaouda however took out time to detail the challenge of lack of health personnel, and the negative impact it is already having on the health care system all over the national territory.
“We have a gap of about 55,000 persons,” said Dr Manaouda. “It is hard to say we will be efficient all over the national territory. Of the personnel we have, 80 to 90% want to stay in Yaoundé or Douala. They cite health or family reasons or others. That is the difficulty we have with managing personnel today.”
Another challenge, he explained, is the progression of some healthcare personnel. In 2022, about 125 he said, returned to school for specialization, leaving a huge vacuum on the field. To cushion these shocks, the Ministry of Public Health, he stated, has suggested a five-year recruitment plan for the intake of 25,000 health personnel, taking in 5,000 annually.
The plan, he noted, is to recruit at the basic levels (regions and divisions), compelling recruits to serve for a minimum of five to ten years before being eligible for transfers.
“We are still not able to fill in the 55,000 gap but this recruitment can improve the situation,” he stated.
Even with this however, the prospects remain dull, as Dr Manaouda remarked that keeping a leash on health workers in hostile areas or cut off zones remains impossible.
“… Like you know very well you can recruit them and send maybe to Menchum. When they take up service, they disappear and we here are not aware,” he told lawmakers.
Beating this challenge, he said, will require the active engagement of regional and divisional delegates as well as administrative officials.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗹 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗖𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻
Despite the fact that it is being highly praised by government officials and lawmakers, many Cameroonians remain oblivious as to what the Universal healthcare plan touted by government is all about.
Universal Healthcare coverage entails giving everyone access to health care services and at an affordable or convenient financial rate.
A national technical group was erected in 2015 to dwell on the scheme in Cameroon. In November 2018, then health minister, Andre Mama Fouda led a team to the national assembly where lawmakers where given explanations on how the process would go. “We have arrived at a final validation stage. it is now an issue of drafting the legal framework,” Minister Mama Fouda had stated.
But four years on, the scheme is yet to kick off fully. “The universal health coverage is aimed at ensuring everyone has equity in access to health services and affordability of health care to all Cameroonians” Dr Manaouda had told lawmakers in the June 2021 parliamentary session.
The current health coverage rate at the time, he said, stood at 45.9%, a few points short of the minimum 50% recommended standard. Cameroon’s coverage rate aimed for by 2030, he added, is 70%. With time fast running out, it is feared the delays may render the goals unachievable in due time.
𝗠𝗣𝘀 𝗯𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗠𝗜𝗡𝗦𝗔𝗡𝗧𝗘 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺
On the side-lines of the session with the Minister of Public Health, lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that he had refused to receive them days back when they visited his office. Working with them, the lawmakers stated, will save the official the stress it entails touring the country to meet certain stakeholders.
“Mr. Minister you don’t even have to go far if you count on the elected people in this house and listen to the worries of the people of their various subdivisions through our voices,” said Hon Kum John Nji of Menchum division in the Northwest region.
Citing an earlier meeting with the minister earlier this year, he said they still await solutions promised.
In response, Dr Manaouda said it is impossible for him to receive everyone, and their timing too was not ideal: “I cannot receive everyone. They were like 40 and it was about 2 or 3 p.m already. It was difficult to receive everyone individually.
The lawmakers, he said, have similar problems and so it was wise that they put them down in writing for better consideration. The Ministry of Public Health he added, takes into consideration every concern.
“We send them to the technical services. Don’t think your suggestions and contributions are being ignored.”
Poise News Desk