Ecsa says it has solutions to health staff retention hitches


The bold declaration came from Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr Henry Madzorera after he called on Vice-President Danny Faure at State House during his visit.

He made the statement when Nation asked him how Seychelles stands to gain by rejoining the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (Ecsa) which he had been sent here to lobby us into being part of again.

Seychelles is not an exception when it comes to losing staff and if any body can help us keep those whom we have trained it would be worthwhile to at least consider what such an organisation claims to be their magic wand.

While listening to doctors, nurses, other health professionals and human resources managers discuss the issue in detail during their August 14 and 19 summit in Arusha Tanzania, we witnessed the 10-member country organ’s reps give impressive results of their well-researched issues and practical solutions.

As we reported earlier in this and regional newspapers, staff shortage in many of the continent’s areas is so severe that some centres have lone staff who work both day and night non-stop until they nearly fall asleep at work with dire consequences to patients.

Being overworked was in many cases seen as a main reason why people quit their jobs despite the continent’s high unemployment rate.

To give only one example of why health centres lacked staff, Ecsa’s surveys showed many people liked to work near where they live, and while we in the media cannot claim this to apply here, we can report that it was the case in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and other areas where Ecsa recommended and financed innovative solutions.

These countries were helped to identify potential health workers well before they were trained.
“We recruited and trained local people who have an interest in staying in that community,” said a health manager from Malawi, citing examples similar to those presented by his counterparts from Tanzania involved in a similar project.

Tanzanian reps said they advertised for training posts in local areas getting students from needy communities, but publicised graduation success in national media helping other areas learn about the strategy.

Solutions to many health problems were found to be non-medical:
Helping long distance truck drivers buy plots of land not far from the roads they ply was seen to cut transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, for example, because “men took breaks from their trips in their more easily accessible homes rather than engage in promiscuity”, they said.

The delegates noted such solutions could not be applied to countries like Seychelles, but they are not oblivious to the situations here.

For example, while teams worked on high birth rates among young people because of unavailability of contraceptives, the need to study and address teenage pregnancies here despite availability of family planning services came up.

Dr Madzorera acknowledged Seychelles makes worthwhile contribution of ideas and examples for the region’s health services, and holding an Ecsa technical meeting here would have mutual benefits.

Sharing a view held by his colleagues from the region, he agreed that charging us membership fees based on this country’s gross domestic product is unrealistic given the size of our population.

During the Arusha conference, Ecsa had brought in major donor agencies to hear the countries’ health problems and pledged to seek funds to support well-structured programmes.

When he called on Mr Faure, the minister was accompanied by his legal adviser Foelane Muronda, Ecsa’s director general Dr Josephine Mbae and the organisation’s finance director, Seychellois Dr Egbert Moustache as well as Seychelles Ministry of Health’s director general for human resources and administration Sandra Crewe.

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