Health sector a top priority for 2015, says President Yameen

The 2015 budget will improve health care services in the Maldives, President Abdulla Yameen has said at the inauguration of a new wing of the regional hospital on Raa Atoll Ungoofaaru.

Identifying a lack of adequate health services on all islands as a top grievance, Yameen said his administration will not discriminate between islands or atolls in providing quality health care and will improve the country’s “severely deteriorated health sector”.

According to the 2015 budget, MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) of the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) budget would be spent on health care. Of this amount, MVR3.1 billion (US$201 million) amounts to recurrent expenditure.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has criticised the lack of funds in the 2015 budget for the ruling Progressive Party of the Madlives’ (PPM) main healthcare pledges – the ‘doctor for every family’ and the sea ambulance in every atoll schemes.

The party has also highlighted the reduction of funds for medical care abroad from MVR31.3 million (US$2 million) in 2014 to MVR10.5 million (US$680,000) in 2015. The domestic health care budget was also reduced from MVR9.3 million (US$603,000) in 2014 to MVR6.5 million (US$421,000) in 2015, the party said.

Yameen said the government has now established sea ambulance services in seven atolls and employed a gynecologist in all atoll hospitals except Vaavu Atoll. He praised the availability of unlimited healthcare under the Aasandha national health insurance scheme.

On December 15, Defense Minister and acting health minister Mohamed Nazim met with Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Special Commissioner Major General Kung Lee to discuss the technical expertise needed to establish sea ambulance services in the Maldives.

Yameen said the government’s priority is to establish a pharmacy through the state wholesaler State Trading Organization (STO) on every island. 57 pharmacies have been established this year alone, the president noted.

“If there is a pharmacy in every atoll, I find it easy to sleep at night. The government will provide the essential medicines. I am assured that citizens would get their required medicine at controlled prices,” Yameen said.

Former Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela has previously highlighted the abundance of of counterfeit pharmaceutical products in the country as a challenge to the health sector.

Yameen last night said the Raa Atoll Regional Hospital, which caters to 15,000 people, will provide similar level of services available in capital Malé,

The hospital now has 12 specialist doctors as well as dentistry and dialysis units, explained Nazim.

President Yameen also criticised MDP’s rejection of the 2015 budget as “irresponsible,” and noted that Raa Atoll Alifushi MP Mohamed Rasheed had voted against the budget despite several development projects budgeted for his constituency.

“I would like to note, the MP rejected the budget despite development projects being budgeted for [the Alifushi] constituency. Citizens must know this,” said Yameen.

The MPs’ rejection of the entire budget is an indication they do not want development for their constituencies, Yameen said.

The MDP rejected the budget after the PPM had failed to back the party’s budget recommendations including allocating MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) and MVR75 million (US$4.8 million) respectively to provide subsidies for fishermen and farmers.

Other proposals included adding persons with disabilities and single parents as categories eligible for government subsidies to the poor and requiring the finance ministry to submit quarterly reports to parliament concerning the implementation of the budget.

The PPM did, however, scrap plans to impose a 10 percent import duty on staple foodstuffs and oil as advocated by opposition party.

Yameen last night said the government has built a harbour, and established complementary solar panel systems and a waste management system on Ungoofaaru this year.

In 2015, the government will establish a rainwater harvesting and storage system, build roads, renovate the football field, construct a sports arena on the island, and establish a new police station on the island, the president added.

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