Dar es Salaam. President John Magufuli said yesterday that the government is investing heavily in modern health equipment and services to save foreign exchange earnings and promote medical tourism.
With state-of-the-art health facilities at Tanzania’s hospitals, President Magufuli said the number of patients who go abroad to seek medical attention has dropped sharply in the last four years. He added that since the government launched kidney transplants at Muhumbili National Hospital as well as modern diagnosis apparatus at Ocean Road Cancer Institute and Bugando Medical Centre, foreign nationals from across the East and Central African regions have been flocking to Tanzania for treatment.
He was speaking yesterday in Dar es Salaam during his meeting with doctors and other medical practitioners ahead of Doctors Day, which will be marked on March 4.
“You can have as many doctors as possible, but if you don’t have modern equipment it is useless, and that is why we are investing in equipment,” said the President.
He added, “If you look at countries such as India and China, they earn a lot of money through medical tourism, and that is where I want Tanzania to head.
“I have personally witnessed some foreigners with heart ailments going to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute to seek treatment,” Dr Magufuli said.
He added, “Even when my wife fell sick I didn’t send her abroad because I believe in our health systems.”
President Magufuli said research shows that between $15.5 billion and $72 billion is spent annually in medical tourism.
He added that the government has been trying to balance between investing in modern equipment and recruiting medical staff.
He revealed that a total of 13,479 health workers have been hired in the past four years, adding that this is a record.
As of July 2019, there were 989,870 workers in government employment, the Head of State saidm adding that the government spends Sh830 billion to pay health workers annually.
Speaking during the meeting, Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) president Elisha Osati urged the government fast-track a law which will ensure that all Tanzanians are covered by health insurance schemes.
“Currently the government puts emphasis on the public sector, but we think the private sector shouldn’t be left behind because if you have many members, automatically the cost will go down,” Dr Osati said.
He also asked for the government’s assistance in the construction of MAT headquarters estimated to cost Sh3 billion.
However, Dr Magufuliu turned down the request, but promised that he will find a public building for the association.
Dr Osati also complained about the tendency of the Higher Education Students Loans Board (HESLB) to charge medical interns high retention fee.
According to him, HESLB has been charging interns six per cent of their loans, something most of them are unable to afford
For his part, Dr Daudi Sai asked the government to reintroduce house allowances for health workers in order to relieve them of the burden of high cost of living.
“Previously, the government provided house allowance to doctors as well as building houses for doctors close to hospitals, but this is no longer the case,” said Dr Sai.
Dr Mugisha Mkoromo accused the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) of refusing bear the cost of some drugs and treatment.