New plan on cards for health financing

Thursday October 26 2017

Medical officers listen to a speech by Vice

Medical officers listen to a speech by Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu during the opening of the 49th National Health Conference in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE 

By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

Dar es Salaam. Doctors in Tanzania yesterday proposed that the government introduces a special levy on products such as petroleum and minerals to finance healthcare expenses for people who are exempted from paying medical bills.

Currently, the government shoulders the burden of over 60 per cent of Tanzanians who are exempted from paying medical bills, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly according to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children.

The doctors, through the Medical Association of Tanzania (Mat) made the proposal during their 49th National Health Conference held in Dar es Salaam and graced by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

The three-day conference was held under the theme: “Sustainable Development Goals: Professionalism and Quality Healthcare Service Delivery in Tanzania.”

Speaking at the conference, the president of Mat, Dr Obadia Nyongole, said people with special needs and those exempted from paying bills continue facing hurdles in accessing healthcare and have become a huge economic burden to the government.

In response to Mat’s proposal, the Vice President said the government was currently working on a new plan, known as the National Healthcare Financing Strategy in efforts to tackle the challenge. She revealed that through the strategy, the government would now look into ways of soliciting funds from local businesses in order to cover up the gaps in the country’s healthcare financing system.

“We (the government) understand that the elderly, for instance, do not access healthcare in the manner they should be doing. The strategy we are now devising aims at covering such gaps. It may not be exactly as what Mat is proposing but I’m sure the gap will be taken care of,’’ she said.

Earlier, Mat president proposed that a special fund, Afya Fund, be established to take care of the needy.

“This can be funded by levies coming from sales of such products as cigarettes, petroleum and minerals,” argued Dr Nyongole.

He added: “We’ve cases where motorcycle riders get involved in accidents. We often realise that they are not insured even as their motorcycles are. It becomes a challenge providing them with proper healthcare. We need to look into how best we finance their treatment.”

Ms Samia expressed government’s optimism that all Tanzanians would be covered with health insurance schemes through the ongoing Universal Health Coverage (UHC) drive.

“With all these efforts, the best way to help people afford healthcare costs is by enrolling them in health insurance schemes,’’ she added.

The Citizen is aware that the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is striving to ensure that at least 50 per cent of all Tanzanians are on medical cover by 2020.

Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children minister Ummy Mwalimu, who also participated at the conference, insisted that the government was pushing for the introduction of mandatory health cover for all Tanzanians.

In another development, Mat requested the government to introduce a central coordination system for harmonisation in the provision of healthcare services in the country.

Dr Nyongole said: “In other sectors, such as roads, there is the National Roads Agency that ensures all road networks are monitored and taken care of. Had we had a similar body in the health sector, we would not have problems of poor coordination in such matters as checking deployment of health workforce.”

Meanwhile, Mat revealed that it was collaborating with partners to establish a workable Continuing Professional Development (CPD) system for the medical and dental professions.

In recent years, the government set guidelines for CPD for health workers at all levels for the purpose of improving healthcare performance.

In September, Parliament passed the CPD under the Medical, Dental and Allied Health Professionals Act of 2016.

The new law is aimed at addressing legal challenges that medical professionals face.

The Bill was tabled for first reading in Parliament in November 2016 and is set to repel the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Cap 152), 1959, which many health stakeholders say is obsolete.