Male City Council begins Primary Health Care program

President Mohamed Nasheed has today launched the “Primary Health Care Program” of Male City Council, which aims to facilitate immunization and other health services to children below five years of age.

In its first step the program will conduct a survey to determine the total number of children below five years of age living in capital Male’, Mayor Maizan Ali Manik said during the program launch at Vinares house in Machangoalhi district.

To inaugurate the program, President Nasheed visited that house and helped the children living there fill out primary health care forms.

City council officials are expected to visit every household in Male’ during the survey.

Speaking to the press, the President said the 11-seat council, which consists of nine ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) councillors, is now mandated with the important task of managing primary health care in Male’.

The primary health care program has not been “managed properly” in Male’, though the islands have been running the program successfully, he added.

Under the program, the council will be responsible for recording children’s height, weight, and other health indicators, the President observed.

Mayor Manik reiterated the importance of the initiative, adding that the council has decided to open Primary Health Centers (PHC) in Male’s four districts, as well as nearby Villingili and Hulhumale.

He added that the centers will help “reduce the current pressures faced by the hospitals” as parents can take their children to the paediatricians at the health centers instead of going directly to hospitals.

“The parents can bring the children here. The doctor at the center will recommend if further consultation is required from hospitals”, the Mayor explained.

He added that centers will provide immunization, vaccination and free consultations, among other health services.

The program follows the implementation of the Aasandha universal health insurance scheme, under which Maldivians will receive up to Rf100,000 of free health care per year. Government officials have said the scheme now holds the government to a higher standard of health care.

During the primary school admission process last year, the Ministry of Education observed that an increasing number of children were not properly vaccinated.

Parents are required to submit a vaccination report with the school application form when their children enroll in grade one, at the age of seven.

Following the Ministry’s observation, public health experts stressed the importance of a comprehensive primary health care initiative to ensure proper immunisation of children.

Speaking today to Minivan News, Public Health Programme Coordinator for the Center for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) Dr Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq welcomed the city council’s initiative as an important move to provide easy access to vaccination  and monitoring.

She noted that the Maldives already has a record high vaccination coverage rate in the region, adding that the health centers will help “sustain the coverage”.


Preventive medicine is better than cure, says President on decentralising health sector

Decentralising public health services will promote preventative medicine in the Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed said today announcing that the health sector would be the first to be decentralised.

”We always hear that this hospital is lacking this machine, or that hospital is lacking doctors, or complaints that islanders cannot access adequate health facilities,” said Nasheed. ”This government’s objective is to prevent people from falling ill, because prevention is better than cure.”

At a press conference today, Nasheed said the government was trying to organise the health sector in a way that newly-elected island councilors could supervise the health sector of each island.

”We want to make sure that all persons that require special assistance are provided with that special assistance,” he said.

Islanders in at least one division have already expressed concern that many of the elected councilors were not capable of handling positions of responsibility.

One islander from the central region of the Maldives recently told Minivan News that on his island, only two of the five elected councilors had finished their GCE O’Levels.

”Because they ran as candidates for the seats under different parties, supporters of those parties have voted for them for the sake of promoting their party,” he said. ”Votes were not made with consideration for how educated the candidate is, or how capable the person, just by what political party he belongs to.”

At this morning’s press conference, Nasheed said that ministers and senior government officials from different areas including the health ministry had begun visiting different islands to conduct workshops and to provide information to the new councilors about their role in decentralising the health sector.

Addressing the concerns of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding the cost of the new layer of government, expressed in a recent notice published at the conclusion of the organisation’s Article IV consultation with the Maldives, Nasheed acknowledged that “the short-term cost [of decentralisation] is likely to be high.”

The salaries alone for the island and atoll councils are expected to cost the Maldivian state an extra Rf173 million (US$13.5 million) a year, on top of the country’s 21-22 percent budget deficit.

“Although the short-term cost is high, it should be obvious to the IMF and other donors that in the long term decentralisation will reduce costs,” Nasheed said.

There was, he said, a public appetite to decentralise, which was “a cornerstone pledge” of most political parties in the country.

“It is very obvious to the government that providing services at a local level is cheaper than centrally-imposed services [with disregard] for local conditions. All over the world decentralisation is expensive to start, but highly cost efficient when it starts running.”

Nasheed also sent his condolences to the mother and family of the child who recently died during labour, forcing doctors to resort to surgery to save the mother’s life.

“We can’t say this is something that should happen, or something that we can say is right,” Nasheed said.

There was bill on medical negligence pending in parliament, he added.