Bangkok Hospital to provide Aasandha healthcare coverage

The Ministry of Health has held discussions with Bangkok Hospital to provide Aasandha, the Maldives universal healthcare scheme, in Thailand.

The ministry said today that discussions with Bangkok Hospital were held between heads of Bangkok Hospital and the acting Minister of Health Mohamed Nazim, reported local media Sun Online.

The discussions reportedly included providing specialist services and medical equipment to the Maldives, establishing a mechanism to prevent shortages of drugs, improving health clinic services in the Maldives, and ensuring the availability of certain drugs at Bangkok Hospital through Aasandha.

Earlier this year, President Abdulla Yameen inaugurated the ‘Unlimited Aasandha’ universal health scheme, as a part of his presidential campaign pledge and his first hundred day programme.

At the time, Yameen assured that the new unlimited service will be an upgrade from the existing Aasandha programme introduced by President Mohamed Nasheed which encountered a number of issues, particularly with regards to sustainability.


Two men and minor stabbed in Malé

Two men and a minor were assaulted and stabbed in Malé around 8:50pm last night in the Dhidhi Goalhi in front of Iskandhar School.

According to police, a 19-year-old, a 20-year-old, and a 13-year-old were injured in the assault and taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) for treatment.

Local media has identified two of the victims as Abdulla Majid, 20, from Azum in Kaafu Guraidhoo, and Aseel Ahmed, 19, from Blueniaage in Thaa Thimarafushi.

Eyewitnesses said a group of masked men stabbed the two men in the back and struck the minor on the head before fleeing on motorbikes.

While one of the victims reportedly lost consciousness and fell to the ground, the other two escaped into a nearby house.

Of the three, Aseel’s condition was reported to be critical. He was immediately taken into the operating theatre at IGMH.

IGMH Media Official Zeenath Ali Habeeb told Minivan News today that the victim’s condition was “serious.” He has regained consciousness after undergoing major surgery, but remains sedated at the intensive care unit (ICU).

Police are meanwhile searching for suspects and no arrests have been made as of the time of press. The case is under investigation by the serious and organised crime department.

A resident of the area told Minivan News that two knives and an axe were found near the staircase of their house after the attacks.

The weapons appeared to be unused and were taken as evidence by the police, who had cordoned off the road.

Residents of the house believe they were stored by the gang for use in the assaults.

Shortly before the incident, a young man had attempted to retrieve the weapons, but found the gate of the house was closed. He had asked a resident to be let in but was refused.

Following a spate of violent assaults in Malé earlier this month – which saw an 18-year-old fatally stabbed – Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeth told the press that police intelligence suggested the assaults were gang reprisals sparked by “a disturbance between two groups.”

Chief Inspector Ismail Naveen meanwhile told reporters that police have confiscated a number of weapons from areas where gangs congregate, including the Henveiru Park, the park on Alifkilegefaanu Magu, and the open area near the State Trading Organisation’s main office.

On August 13, police began dismantling huts and clearing out makeshift dens in open spaces in the capital used exclusively by gangs.


Plans revealed for overdue development of IGMH

The US$7 million (MVR118 million) renovation of Malé’s Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) is set to end the concerns of patients with no choice but to use the capital’s only public hospital.

Following yesterday’s announcement, dissatisfied users of IGMH – a gift from India – have told Minivan News that they are currently forced to use its services due to the lack of reasonably priced alternatives.

“The state should be able to offer better and more reliable services than this,” said Ahmed Arshad whose father recently passed away while on the hospital’s waiting list for a bed.

“While I am deeply displeased with the services there, I go there because there is little other choice,” said Shahid Ameen, 35.

According to a statement issued by the hospital’s management, the plans – which include a new 11-storey wing – represent the first major development undertaken since the hospital’s construction 19 years ago.

Plans also include renovation of the hospital’s infrastructure and the upgrading of the Villimalé Health Centre to a 15-bed hospital. IGMH’s new wing – set to be finished by December – will be dedicated to prenatal care and paediatrics and the current dialysis centre expanded.

In his capacity as acting health minister, Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has also announced that the government is seeking to employ 225 additional doctors, who will enjoy revised pay structures – the details of which are yet to be revealed.

Current services

Aishath Inas – a 28 year old teacher – welcomes the proposed development, noting that it is currently “very difficult and time consuming” to get services at IGMH.

“There are long waiting lists even to get a bed in the ward, and people need to wait days to get the medical attention they seek,” she said.

Shahid Ameen noted that the current facilities were hard to locate, despite saying he frequently visits the hospital.

“As for getting appointments with specialists – especially those in the Internal Medicine or Orthopaedics department – well, better to just forget about it. You have to stand in queue for hours, sometimes even days, before you can get an appointment,” he said.

61-year-old Shaheeda Mansoor says she avoids going to the hospital if at all possible.

“It costs a bit more, but it is worth the money to go to clinics instead as you can get faster, and more quality services there when it comes to consultations. However, I still go to IGMH to do some tests as those services are rarely available in the clinics,” she explained.


Indian company Renaatus Projects Pvt Ltd will be undertaking the development work which commenced on May 18 and is estimated to be completed within 15 months.

Under the project, the in-patient wards, attached bathrooms, the Intensive Care Unit, operation theaters, labour rooms, emergency room, and the hospital’s basement will be renovated.

Equipment worth MVR4.5 million (US$291,451) has been donated  to the dialysis centre by MedTech Pvt Ltd and Medicom Pve Ltd while a special consultation room will be set up for a recently-recruited specialist in kidney related illnesses.

The new Villimalé Hospital will contain a three-bed labour room, an operation theatre, five consultation rooms, and an emergency services room.

Nazim – who local media reports to be currently heading the Ministry of Health – announced that the state is looking specialists across numerous areas of expertise, including anaesthetists, cardiologists, dermatologists, gynaecologists, paediatricians, and psychiatrists.

At the press conference, State Minister of Health and Family Hussain Rasheed said that the state will complete the hiring of doctors within 45 days, with 91 medical officers to be placed in health centres across the country and specialists assigned to atoll and regional hospitals.


Health Ministry seeks to protect mothers and infants from HIV “time bomb”

New guidelines on preventing the transfer of HIV from mother to child will come into effect from Wednesday (May 7 2014), Ministry of Health and Gender has said.

The national guideline on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV is underpinned by a need to equip the Maldives for what the Health Protection Agency has termed an HIV “time bomb.”

Programme Coordinator for the Reproductive Health Unit Naseera Nazeed has urged all pregnant women to get tested in their first semester.

“There is very high chance of saving the baby – 90% – if they are checked,” she said.

The guidelines aim to protect women of childbearing age from HIV, advise women with HIV against pregnancy, protect HIV positive mothers from infecting their children and providing support to HIV positive mothers and their families.

The Maldives identified the first infant with HIV in 2012. In February this year, the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) transfused a pregnant women with HIV positive blood due to a technical error. Meanwhile, local media have alleged a 19-year-old HIV patient had given birth at IGMH in early April.

Programme Manager for the National HIV AIDS programme Abdul Hameed said the spate of HIV incidents this year had raised awareness on HIV and provided a boost to healthcare efforts.

“We are sending out the public a clear message, always to be sure of their status. HIV is everywhere, you don’t have to give your name, you just have to go and get tested. The result will be in 10 minutes,” he urged.

Not prepared

Lack of prevention programmes and specialized care for population groups at risk facilitate an HIV outbreak in the Maldives, Hameed said. Sex workers, gay men and intravenous drug users are particularly at risk, he said.

“We are sitting on a time bomb. We know those key populations exist [in Maldives],” stated Hameed. “At any time it can explode.”

The Maldives does not offer prevention services for gay men or sex workers, he said.

HIV patients prefer treatment abroad due to high levels of stigma and discrimination, he said, adding: “Even in the healthcare system itself there is ingrained discriminations.”

The healthcare system is ready for an outbreak, Hameed claimed, but said there are deficiencies that could hinder response to a crisis.

“The health system is ready, but we don’t have the civil society or organization networks. We may not be prepared,” he said.

A prevention workshop—the second of its kind—is underway from Tuesday to Wednesday (May 4 to May 6) to train health professionals on the new guidelines. A total of 31 participants from regional hospitals, populous atolls, Malé, Villimalé and Hulhumalé are taking part.

The Ministry also plans to hold a series of phone conferences to all atolls to further disseminate the information.

Former Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed said it was only through “incredible luck” the HIV virus had not spread throughout the country.

“All the habits that may lead to the spread of HIV is excessively in practice,” he claimed referring to sexual promiscuity and intravenous drug use in the Maldives.

Since the first case of HIV was detected in the country in 1991, 19 cases of HIV have been reported among Maldivians. However, the Health Ministry estimates numbers of HIV positive persons could be between 70 and 100.


19 year-old Maldivian HIV patient gives birth

A 19 year-old woman with HIV has given birth to a child last week at the Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), local media have reported

According to online newspaper ‘MV Youth’ the patient was allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with a man with HIV when she was 15 years of age.

The website reported that the man who she had sex with was found guilty of having sex with the girl and sentenced to 19 lashes in 2010 by the Criminal Court. It was not confirmed whether the baby was tested positive to HIV.

Speaking to Minivan News today IGMH Spokesperson Zeenath Ali said that she had not heard of the incident.

‘’Some other news agencies had contacted me today and asked about it but I told them that only the concerned authorities such as Health Ministry and concerned persons from IGMH will have that kind of information,’’ she said.

She said she cannot confirm whether or not the information was true.

On February 27, an expatriate lab technician working at IGMH who was allegedly responsible for the transfusion of HIV positive blood to a pregnant Maldivian patient was taken into police custody.

The technician at fault reported the blood as negative despite the machine showing that it was positive for HIV.

The error was discovered when the patient came in for a routine checkup on February 18, after which the blood test report was reviewed.

The blood sample was taken from a donor found by the patient and not from the hospital’s blood bank and was not previously registered as an HIV patient.

In October 2012, the then Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed claimed it was only through “incredible luck” that HIV had not spread across the Maldives, considering the prolific levels of unprotected sex and intravenous drug use.

Jamsheed at the time spoke of the risks of promiscuity in the society, referring to the 2010 case where police arrested an HIV positive prostitute. He stated that the same prostitute had been identified in the Maldives as being HIV positive in the year 2009 as well.

Since the first case of HIV in 1991, 19 cases of HIV have been reported among Maldivians, while the estimations of HIV positive persons are as high as 70 – 100.

The Health Ministry has previously warned about a possible explosion of HIV/AIDS in the country, with high risk behavior such as drug use and numerous sexual partners a concern.


Bipolar patient left IGMH against family’s wishes

A 41-year-old man being treated for bipolar disorder locked his brother in his room before discharging himself from Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) yesterday afternoon, CNM has reported.

According to family members, who are considering committing the man to the special needs centre at Kaafu Guraidhoo, he left the hospital without anyone in the hospital noticing.

CNM reported that police were active at the hospital when the patient escaped.

After police and family searched for him for several hours, he was found taking a Villimalé ferry by a family friend.

The patient was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1992 and was committed to the center for people with special needs at Guraidhoo in until 2005 after which he returned to his island where he worked for a few years.

According the family, before the patient escaped, a doctor at the hospital tried to discharge him from IGMH before official confirmation for committing him to the Guraidhoo center was received.


“Once a year is not enough”: Tiny Hearts holds annual camp for children with heart defects

Around 100 children and their parents will travel to Malé this week for the ‘Care for Tiny Hearts’ camp which seeks specialised treatment and detection for congenital heart defects.

An estimated 80% of these patients will have travelled long distances from the atolls for this rare opportunity for local treatment.

This is the sixth camp organised by local NGO Tiny Hearts of Maldives, running until March 26 at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

Held just once a year, the event seeks to provide children registered with Tiny Hearts of Maldives the opportunity to consult pediatric cardiologists without travelling abroad.

“We have proved something is viable,” co-founder Ali Muaz told Minivan News. “Once a year is not enough, but it’s the most we can give.”

Tending to the patients over the course of the event is one local doctor, alongside two Indian doctors specialised in paediatric cardiology.

In addition to this, a special Fetal Echo workshop will also be conducted tomorrow for radiologists working in Malé. The purpose of this workshop is to assist in early detection and timely treatment of any defect present in the baby’s heart during pregnancy.

Tiny Hearts of Maldives was founded in 2009 by Ali Muaz and Fathimath Hishmath Faiz, in memory of their son Keyaan, who was born with a congenital heart condition and died at just 2 and a half months.

The experience of their son’s condition lead them to realise the critical need for access to information and assistance in dealing with specific health issues that affect newborns, infants, and young children in general, in the Maldives.

There are now 320 children registered with the organisation, with most coming from the sparsely scattered atolls outside the capital.

Unfortunately, there are only 1-2 cardiologists working all year round in the Maldives, according to Fiunaz Waheed of Tiny Hearts.

“It’s very difficult to get an appointment most of the time,” she added, “so they [parents] find it very difficult.”

When asked by Minivan News how the government could support a wider network of local treatment, Fuinaz preferred not to comment.

Muaz explained that around 80% of the patients who visited the camp came from atolls, with some travelling hours to attend. Regardimg the distribution of healthcare available to local islands he noted, “I’m hoping for it to get better,” though Muaz was also reluctant to comment on the ways in which the government could implement this.

One of the many issues faced by a centralised healthcare system is the lack of contact between doctors and patients, with Muaz explaining that the main method of contact is individual telephone calls and texts.

Another major problem is the long and costly journeys faced by families to reach specialist treatment – a well-documented problem for the country’s numerous citizens living with Thalassemia which requires regular visits to the capital, at great financial and physical cost to patients and their families.

The deficiencies in local healthcare often mean that families will look to travel abroad to get the essential treatment they need.

However, Fiunaz of Tiny Hearts explains that “sometimes its very difficult to send them abroad also, because its very costly.” She added that the Tiny Hearts camp is a rare opportunity for families to get the “proper treatment in the proper time”.

When asked about the possibility of expansion for Tiny Hearts, Muaz stated that they have signed an MoU with the ministry of education, and they hope to continue with their valuable work.

Minivan News was unable to gain a response from officials at the Ministry of Health at the time of press.


IGMH dialysis unit to be expanded

In an attempt to broaden services at the dialysis unit in capital city Malé’s state owned Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the management has decided to expand the unit to twice its current size.

IGMH Deputy CEO Mohamed Habeeb told local media that after expansion, the unit will be able to attend to 20 patients at a time.

“As there is such a high demand for dialysis services, we are having to provide these services around the clock. Some patients have to spend about five hours in dialysis,” said Habeeb.

“Currently we have 11 beds in the Dialysis Unit, which will be increased to 20 after the expansion,” he said.

He further revealed that MVR2 million (US$130,000) is estimated to be spent on the project.


Week in review: March 1– 8

This week saw tensions between the Elections Commission (EC) and the Supreme Court rising as the commissioners were hauled before the court once again.

After telling a Majlis committee that the court’s election guidelines were undermining the commission’s work, EC Chair Thowfeek was grilled by the bench before a travel ban was placed on himself and his colleagues.

As well as having their travel restricted, EC members also raised concern that the commission’s budget – in addition to being given piecemeal by the Finance Ministry – was insufficient to conduct the March 22 Majlis poll.

With voter re-registration completed this week, the EC noted that one in four voters intended to vote in places other than their permanent residence.

After the US State Department’s human rights report joined the chorus of those critical of the Maldives judiciary, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon asked the international community to support rather than undermine the country’s courts.

After receiving criticism from the political opposition for failing to mention the judiciary’s issues in his first address, President Yameen stated that he had complete trust in the institution.

This comment prompted the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Mohamed Nasheed to suggest that this faith stemmed from the Progressive Party of Maldives’ strong influence over the courts.

Speaking on the campaign trail, Nasheed pledged that an MDP majority in the Majlis would seek to reform both the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission.

Two fellow MDP MPs seeking to return to the campaign trail were the recently jailed Abdulla Jabir and the recently stabbed Alhan Fahmy.

While Jabir’s legal team pleaded with the court to allow the Kaashidhoo MP the opportunity to campaign during his incarceration, Alhan was told that the Civil Court could not invalidate the candidacy of the disputed Feydhoo by-election winner.

Government agenda

As well as listing the government’s recent achievements during his address at the Majlis opening this week, President Yameen explained that a legislative agenda had been formulated. This agenda was subsequently revealed by the Attorney General to include 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

The government’s pledge to increase the pension to MVR5000 was delivered – after some confusion while the Home Ministry’s drive against drugs continued with plans made to reintroduce sniffer dogs to the Maldives.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz received a royal welcome from the government this week, releasing a joint statement with Yameen reiterating the countries’ mutual commitment to moderate Islam and strengthened bilateral ties.

As the fallout from the IGMH HIV scandal continued, hospital officials revealed that a member of staff had been taken into police custody after admitting culpability for the error which led to the transfusion of infected blood.

Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela explained that the expenses of the victim’s children would now be borne by the state, though local NGO Voice of Women expressed concern that the family may still face discrimination due to “societal myths and misinformation” about the illness.

Shakeela told the Majlis government oversight committee that her resignation was not the solution to the health sector’s problems.

The same committee was also informed that a Maafushi Jail inmate – left in a coma after being attacked by his cellmates in February – had requested to be taken out of his quarters more than an hour before the attack.

The government’s attempts to keep Raajje TV away from President’s Office press conferences were dropped by the AG this week, while the broadcasting commission asked DhiTV to respond to allegations that it had irresponsibly criticised the Anti Corruption Commission.