Health Minister recognized by Thai Princess

Health Minister Dr Aminath Jameel yesterday received Thailand’s 2011 Princess Srinagarindra Award from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in the Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall in Thailand’s Grand Palace.

The Princess recognized Dr Jameel for her work progressing nursing and midwifery as professions. According to local media, the Princess identified Dr Jameel’s support of a diploma course and the local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals as important contributions to improving health care nation-wide.

Princess Maha Chakri is president of the Princess Srinagarindra Award Foundation. Created in 2000, the award is granted annually to an individual or a group of registered nurses and/or midwives who have made significant contributions to healthcare at the local and international level.

The award is typically presented the day before the late Princess Mother, Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra Mahidol’s centenary birthday, October 21.


MNDF drafted to aid government dengue response over “epidemic” fears

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has been drafted in to help with efforts to try and control an outbreak of dengue fever that the government has described as “an epidemic”.

President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday announced that he had requested the assistance of defense forces in collecting information about the virus from island and atoll health councils after four deaths linked to the affliction were recorded in the space of two days.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Major Abdul Raheem of the MNDF confirmed that the country’s armed forces would be working within a wider government task force to try and establish ways of better controlling the spread of the virus.

The Maldives has been battling a growing number of dengue fever cases in 2011, with 300 cases and five deaths reported in just the first two months of the year. There has been a reported spike in the number of cases of the virus reported in Male’; cases that were linked earlier this year by one health expert to a construction boom in the capital. However, most of the fatalities have been islanders who died in transit to regional hospitals, with many of the most serious cases having affected children.

Raheem did not specify what exact role the MNDF would take in efforts to combat the virus, but added that the defence force would be working as part of a taskforce based within a male’ school to try and coordinate a response to the outbreak.

“This is the first time we have been involved in efforts to help fight dengue fever,” he said. “But we have experience in working to control other [diseases].”

In addressing concerns about incidents of dengue across the Maldives, President Nasheed yesterday said that the MNDF would be used to obtain information about the virus from atoll health authorities in conjunction with councils and the Local Government Authority overseeing their work.

With the current outbreak now being treated as an epidemic by the government, the president called on members of the public and everyone involved in disease control to provide genuine information about the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, anyone found to be providing falsified information is said to risk facing possible prosecution from the authorities, Nasheed warned in a press release.

Early symptoms of the virus include fever, joint paint and a distinctive rash and headache, although it can be difficult to distinguish from the milder Chikungunya disease that can last for up to five days. Even healthy adults can be left immobile by dengue for several weeks while the disease runs its course.

Government criticism

Despite announcing plans to take action against the disease, the government has come under some criticism this week within the Majlis for perceived failures in its handling of the local dengue situation.

Amongst the criticisms, People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla asked Health Minister Dr Aminath Jameel if she was considering resignation “since based on what is being said here your sector has very much failed,” Dr Jameel replied that she did not believe that was the case.

The health minister, replying to another question from MDP MP Ali Waheed during Tuesday’s (June 28) parliamentary session, said the ministry was providing information to islands through teleconferencing and stressed that controlling mosquito breeding grounds was key to combating the rise in dengue fever across the country.

“Mosquitoes don’t travel very far,” she explained. “Therefore, it’s mosquitoes from nearby areas that are spreading it. Controlling mosquito [breeding] is needed from the public and individuals as well. We are working together with island councils and the Male’ City Council.”

Jameel claimed that the Addu City Council had also taken up initiatives and organised activities to try and combat dengue.

“An additional problem that we encounter is the quick turnover of doctors in the country’s hospitals and health centres,” she said. “So they are not very familiar with the protocol here. We are facing that problem as well. But as I’ve said, this can’t solved without controlling mosquito [breeding].”


Health Minister says government-owned corporations are a good step for health sector

Minister of Health and Family Dr Aminath Jameel has said there will be no loss to the government if health employees have to work under corporations, reports Haveeru.

The government is planning on managing Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), regional hospitals and health centres, under 100 percent government-owned corporations.

The minister said employees will be protected under the Employment Act and Pension Law.

Dr Aminath said employees would not lose their rights and the Health Ministry would regulate the corporations under its regulatory mechanism.

She added that the health sector framework would be amended and salaries are expected to increase.

The minister added that bringing health services closer to the people under corporations would solve the current problems the health sector is facing.


Hospital charges to remain stable despite Apollo deal, pledges health ministry

The ministry of health has pledged that hospital charges will remain stable at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), even though it is to managed by private company Apollo Hospital Group.

Health Minister Dr Aminath Jameel said the hospital remained a state asset “and we have only handed the management of the hospital over to Apollo.”

The minister also said that IGMH would be turned into a teaching hospital, which would provide training for nurses and paramedics in line with the government’s aim of ensuring at least 80 per cent of hospital staff are Maldivian within 15 years. Currently 60 per cent of the hospital’s nursing staff are foreign.

The health ministry acknowledged that IGMH was not at the standard that a tertiary hospital should be.

“Even though it’s hard to accept, we don’t have the capacity within the country to bring the hospital up to standard. We needed help from a foreign party,” Jameel said.

A situational analysis of the hospital will be conducted in the first three months of new management, after which a work plan will be submitted to the government.”

“We want the hospital to have a good management team to oversee the daily management of services,” Jameel said.

She also offered reassurances that Maldivian jobs would not be lost as part of this deal, and that the agreement was within the Maldivian employment act.

The current ratio at IGMH is three foreign staff for every Maldivian, a statistic Jameel said the ministry hoped to reverse.

Where’s the money?

The ministry paints the deal as very good for the Maldives on paper. But what does Apollo stand to gain?

Zubair Mohamed, CEO of IGMH said the deal with Apollo “wasn’t done to make a profit, but to provide good health care.”

Asked if how Apollo would be able to make a return on their US$20 million investment in the dilapidated Male’ hospital, Zubair said money “was a combined investment made by Apollo, the Indian government and the Maldives – not to be recovered, but to motivate the hospital.”

The benefits would be quickly realised, he said, “and after the first five years, IGMH will have the capacity to train doctors on the job as general practitioners.”

Zubair also said that having a high standard of hospital would open up possibilities for medical tourism, a lucrative sub-sector of the tourism industry in countries like Thailand.

“Having a good hospital means doors are opened for things like wellness tourism and palative care. Even tourists can comfortably have a medical check-up,” Zubair said.