‘Super specialist’ doctors treat over 700 patients

More than 700 patients across the country have consulted visiting specialist doctors in four days under the government’s new ‘super specialist service.’

Arrangements have been made to send three out of the 762 patients overseas for further medical treatment, the national health insurance provider ‘Aasandha’ said today.

Under the programme, specialist doctors from neighbouring countries will come to the Maldives for one week every month and consult patients at hospitals in three different regions.

Every year, thousands of Maldivians fly to India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, seeking medical treatment unavailable in the country.

“Such a programme allows the government to provide health and social services at a lower cost, with better functioning systems in place,” said the Aasandha office in a press release.

The ‘super specialist service’ will employ neurologists, cardiologists, urologists, neurosurgeons, ENT doctors and paediatricians to provide consultations in different parts of the country.

Some 11 specialist doctors from India and Sri Lana are currently treating patients in Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhuhfushi, Laamu Gan, Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo and Hulhumalé.

A haemoglobin specialist doctor meanwhile visited the Maldives Blood Services and consulted 21 thalassemia patients.

The Aasandha office said that the biggest problem faced by the travelling teams was lack of medicine from island pharmacies.

However, the National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) has assured that the medicines will be provided within five days.

NPSA CEO Mujthaba JaleelSpeaking at the inauguration ceremony of the super specialist programme last week, NSPA CEO Mujthabaa Jaleel said 22 hospitals from India and Sri Lanka will participate in providing doctors.

The visiting doctors will improve healthcare for people suffering from serious conditions, he said.

The super specialist programme is one of the key healthcare pledges in President Abdulla Yameen’s manifesto, Jaleel said.


Government discusses healthcare with China and Lithuania

The Maldivian delegation to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 136th executive board meeting have held talks with the Chinese and Lithuanian governments on aiding the development of the Maldivian health care system, the health ministry reveals.

In a statement by the ministry it was revealed that discussions with the Chinese delegation had resulted in commitments to provide the Maldives with medical equipment and doctors.

Further, in accordance with the MoU signed between the governments, the Chinese government agreed to expedite scholarships for Maldivian medical students, along with increased efforts to boost Chinese alternative forms of medicine in the Maldives.

The Lithuanian delegation agreed to provide training, expert advice, and technical support to developing specific fields in medicine in accordance with the findings a team of neurosurgeons from the country who visited the Maldives last year.

The Maldivian delegation in the talks was led by Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef who was accompanied by State Minister for Health Hussain Rasheed, Deputy Director of Health Aishath Samiya, and Director of the Health Protection Agency Maimoona Abubakr.


Ferry services accomodate medical staff shortage

Ferry services in Raa Atoll are helping the Rasgetheem community cope with dwindling medical staff.

With the island’s only doctor on a four-day leave, medical services beyond simple blood pressure tests have been suspended. Meanwhile, the clinic’s nurse remains on duty to provide basic services to Rasgetheem’s 952 residents.

Although the lack of a doctor would seem insupportable for any community, a Rasgetheem council member said new ferry services have accommodated the inconvenience.

“Since the ferry opened people are choosing to go to Ungoofaru, it’s only one-and-a-half hours by ferry”, she pointed out.

The council member said a second doctor had been requested, however the council understood that none were available.

Of Raa Atoll’s 15 inhabited islands, none have more than one doctor and there is no back-up physician to fill in when doctors go on leave. In most cases, island doctors are limited by skill set and technology.

Ungoofaru Regional Hospital Assistant Manager Hussain Shiham said medical staffing was one of the atoll’s biggest concerns.

“Staffing here is very weak, especially doctors. Right now Raa atoll, Noonu atoll and Baa atoll don’t have gynecologists. Raa atoll doesn’t have a dentist or an orthopedist. We have applied for over 19 medical personnel, but the medical council hasn’t approved any,” said Shiham.

Shiham explained that the regional hospital has requested staff, even submitting applications for positions received from medical professionals in Italy, Russia and the Ukraine. “But the medical council won’t accept Russian graduates because their school system isn’t registered internationally,” he said.

When asked about the Atoll’s relationship with the medical council, Shiham said he was unclear about the election process and supposed that council members had political motivations.

Assistant Director of the Ministry of Health and Family, Fathimath Lamiya, said new hires had been delayed by flaws in the recruitment process which exposed communities to medical malpractice, but corrected that the changes had not created the current staff shortage.

Previously, she explained, members of the health sector assumed that approval to recruit staff members was equivalent to approval to practice medicine.

“The councils are mandated to regulate health professionals and ensure that they meet certain standards,” Lamiya said. “In most countries you have to be registered with a board or council to certify that you are able to practice. Many weren’t, but now they are being registered.”

New regulations under the Health Ministry aim at reducing the time, cost and risk of hiring foreign medical staff.

“All candidates will submit qualifications to get approval, but now they can use photocopies rather than original documents,” Lamiya said, adding that the previous system requiring original documents involved candidates coming into the Maldives and, if not approved, receiving a paid flight home at the Maldivian employer’s expense.

“Now, candidates will get their recruitment approval before they arrive, the Human Resources Ministry will require that approval to issue a visa, and upon arrival they can register with their original documents in the island councils,” Lamiya said.

She observed that the shortage of medical staff was a concern, but hoped the new process would ensure that good doctors are hired.

Meanwhile, Shiham said, health professionals on Raa Atoll make ends meet.

“Ferry rates have dropped significantly, so people are coming more and more to the regional hospital,” he said, acknowledging that the service has boosted cooperative efforts among the islands.

“If a person has a serious health condition [when the doctor is away], then people will get a launch to take him to a nearby island. The nearest is only three minutes away. A nurse is usually in a health center nearby, and I think we can provide services”, he said.

For services beyond the capacity of the regional hospital, Shiham said a four hour ferry to Male’ was available for Rf 580 (US$35).


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.


Malé Health Services Corporation established

President Mohamed Nasheed has established Malé Health Services Corporation Limited, a government-owned company with one hundred percent government shares.

The company was formed to “ensure economic and social development” and to provide “adequate health care” for Maldivians.

The corporation will establish and maintain health care facilities in the Malé region.