The Citizen Observatory for Health (OCS) calls for the urgent and complete usage of Telemedicine to reduce waiting time in some Mozambican health facilities, as well as to decrease the shortage of health-related information in the most remote areas of the country.
The appeal was expressed by the coordinator of the health sector government and regulation Pillar in the OCS, Angelina Magibire, at the National Conference on Access to Health, which took place last week (June 30st and July 1st), in Maputo.
“Telemedicine reduces the waiting time for health treatment. It can be the solution for the reduction of queues in health units”, says the coordinator, adding that “with telemedicine, we reduce the distance that the user travels to have assistance, as well as we can cover people who dwell in remote areas.”
Medical care for people dwelling in remote areas, according to Magibire, can be more flexible with telemedicine, expanding rapid access to health services.
“With telemedicine, the distance is reduced and people who have less access to the health facility can be benefited by it”, she argues, adding that “however, telemedicine can be negative, as it limits the contact between the patient and the health professional.”
For his part, the vice-chairman of the Mozambican Organization of Nurses, Grácio Guambe, stated that although Telemedicine has its negative points – regarding the human contact between patient and health professionals – it can be an advantage to the National Health System (SNS) “because there are issues that do not need to be dealt directly with the health professional. This reduces overcrowding and fatigue of medical staff.”
“There are concerns that can be dealt with over the phone. That is, the doctor or nurse can diagnose and prescribe medications over the phone”, he added, stressing that “Telemedicine is part of a larger science field that is called Telehealth.”
Access to Medicine in Mozambique
Another study, presented by Pedro Nhanengue, from the Public Participation at OCS, highlights that most people with disabilities are in the informal sector and do not have access to essential medicines.
“These people belong to the informal sector and are mostly women”, he stressed, adding that the access to medicines is critical “as there is shortage of all kinds of medicine, except paracetamol.”
“Pharmacies only have paracetamol. Other medicines are scarce and this is quite worrying when we take into account the statistics and the financial condition of these people”, he argued.
On the subject, Benilde Mourana, director of Luana Semeia Sorrisos Cooperative, stressed that “the problem of people with disabilities has not only to do with the access to medicines, it also has to do with utensils for hygiene (disposable diapers), because these are quite expensive.”
On the same occasion, a study on the Sale of Medicines in the Informal Sector was presented, calling for the Ministry of Health to be more vigilant in the control of existing medicines in the National Health System.
“Medicines are commercialized in the informal market. Many of these dealers have no training in the area of health, but they recommend medicines to their customers”, aid Policarpo Ribeiro, representing Médicus Mundi.
“Most of these dealers are male and claim that someone connected to the system is the one who has been supplying the stock”, reaved Ribeiro.
The representative of Médicus Mundi also pointed out that the lack of availability of medicines in developing countries is caused by weak logistics in distribution, poor infrastructure network, insufficient human resources, and poor financing in the health sector.
The author suggests the need to improve the management and control system of medicines; training of health unit staff, pharmacy managers and regular monitoring, as well as the education and awareness of the population about the purchase and use of medicines.
In this context, he believes that any intervention designed to combat the sale of medicines in informal markets should integrate a multisectoral team, including the health sector, Ministry of Constitutional and Religious Affairs, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Attorney General’s Office, Municipal and Local Authorities and Civil Society.
“We hope that the legislation reviewed and approved by the Assembly of the Republic (Mozambican Parliament) will provide severe measures against these dealers, in order to discourage this practice of illegal sale of medicines”, stressed Ribeiro, who also recommends a strict control of the actions of heath staff, especially those already retired because some of them continue to resort to this illegal activity.
The National Conference on Access to Health, an event organized by the Citizen Observatory for Health, funded by the European Union, included the presentation of several studies led by different organizations of civil society. The event also included the participation of different organizations from South Africa and Uganda (which presented studies focused on User Fees), as well as Community Based Organizations and representatives of the Maputo City Council and public in general.