With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley
President Abdulla Yameen has announced that he will personally oversee the Maldives’ health sector until it overcomes its current problems.
“When things don’t get done, it is the president elected by the people who has to bear responsibility. But the democratic way is to delegate the work and let others do it. And doing things through institutions and offices,” local media quoted Yameen as saying in Addu City yesterday (August 11).
“If everything has to be done by the president, then we can just pay the president a large salary, send everyone else home and the work will be done. But we have offices and departments because we don’t want to do that.”
Speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rally, Yameen alleged that, despite a lot of developments having been brought to the health sector during Gayoom’s administration, no investments have been made during President Mohamed Nasheed’s time in office.
The Ministry of Health has been headed by Defence Minister Colonel (retired) Ahmed Nazim after former minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela’s renomination was rejected by the Majlis last month, and had fallen under the oversight of Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
In an interview with Haveeru earlier this week, Dr Shakeela alleged that she had received threats and intimidation prior to her departure, suggesting that political opponents wished to remove her in order to benefit from corrupt development deals.
“When things fail, all the complaints are targeted to the president and in the end it is whoever is elected to the post of president that needs to carry the responsibility for everything,” President Yameen told local media.
“Therefore, I have decided that although the sector was not overseen by me previously, I am going to run the health sector directly under my oversight until it overcomes its current hurdles,” he continued.
Dr Shakeela – whose time in office was marked by a number of high profile mishaps within the sector – told Haveeru that she had not been provided adequate powers to carry out the changes required.
“When I was given the post, some people said this can’t be done by bringing in someone from far outside after we worked hard to bring this government,” she was quoted as saying.
“So from the start there were some people who were bent on showing that I was a failure.”
The state-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) – long criticised for lack of qualified doctors and inadequate medical facilities – transfused HIV positive blood to a patient in February due to an alleged technical error.
In June, Fuvahmulah councillors called for Shakeela’s resignation after a case of stillbirth, an interrupted caesarean, and the death of a soldier on the island. A few weeks after, over 300 protestors demonstrated in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhuffushi over deteriorating conditions at the regional hospital.
Responding to Shakeela’s interview this week, PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that acting minister Nazim was carrying out “tremendous” work in the sector – work he is confident Dr Shakeela could not have done.
Nihan argued that the removal of Dr Shakeela was an example of good democratic practice after PPM members became dissatisfied with her performance.
On Monday (September 11) the ministry was reported to have signed an agreement with Sunshell Maldives Pvt Ltd for the MVR1.2 million (US$77,821) renovation of Hithadhoo regional hospital.
Yameen yesterday also praised acting health minister Nazim’s performance, saying he was “working very actively and conducting some very important work”.
He said that Nazim regularly deliberates with him on health sector issues, implementing his suggestions.
“I am therefore confident that with the current minister, I will be able to bring about the changes I desire in even the atoll level hospitals,” said Yameen.
The president is visiting Feydhoo and Hithadhoo islands in the southern atoll to examine ways in which the government’s development agenda can be implemented.
In addition to inaugurate a road construction project in Feydhoo, Yameen announced a land reclamation project to be started on the same island next year, as well as a atoll-wide sewerage project to begin this year.