Law­mak­ers de­bate ex­pand­ing ru­ral health­care

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

DE­BAT­ING the Na­tional Health Pol­icy in the Pyithu Hlut­taw yes­ter­day, most mem­bers of par­lia­ment ad­vo­cated for adding more pub­lic health staff around the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas.

Dr Aye Zin Latt, a Na­tional League for Democ­racy MP for Sa­gaing Re­gion, sub­mit­ted the pro­posal in the first reg­u­lar ses­sion.

Daw San San Ei, an NLD MP for Kachin State’s Mohnyin town­ship, said the death toll for in­fants and moth­ers is in­creas­ing in ru­ral ar­eas be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient health staffing and in­ad­e­quate medicine.

She sug­gested that the govern­ment open more ru­ral-based phar­ma­cies and as­sign more mid­wives and gen­eral health staff.

U Maung Maung, another NLD MP, from Hti­gyaing town­ship in Sa­gaing Re­gion, said im­proved health education is needed.

“I run a hard­ware shop. One day, a girl came in and bought a yel­low pow­der used for pol­ish­ing fur­ni­ture,” he said. “When I asked her why she needed to buy it, she said she was go­ing to use it to make pork sticker. She wanted to use the pol­ish to colour food.”

Daw Wint War Tun, an NLD MP for Kayah’s Shardaw town­ship, said re­mote ar­eas of her state are es­pe­cially in need of health­care ser­vices.

The ser­vices cover the ur­ban ar­eas while ne­glect­ing the ru­ral ar­eas, said Daw Khin Saw Wai, an Arakan Na­tional Party MP for Rathedaung town­ship in Rakhine State.

“Be­cause of the lay of the land, three or four vil­lages can­not have a mid­wife,” she said. “It means we are ne­glect­ing moth­ers from ru­ral ar­eas who can­not go to ur­ban ar­eas for med­i­cal treat­ment.”

One-third of the coun­try’s chil­dren un­der five years old are mal­nour­ished, said Dr Aung Khin, an NLD MP from Man­dalay Re­gion’s Pyin Oo Lwin town­ship. About 29 per­cent do not meet the stan­dard height for chil­dren their age. The mal­nour­ish­ment leads to phys­i­cal and de­vel­op­men­tal is­sues when they grow up, he said.

Staffing of the coun­try’s health sec­tor is just over 40pc of what it should be, he said.

U Thet Naung from Lahe town­ship in Sa­gaing Re­gion said health work­ers’ salaries need to be in­creased.

In his town­ship, only 26 health work­ers are as­signed to a depart­ment that should have a staff of 94.

“They say they are thrown away into the dis­tant ar­eas,” he said, ex­plain­ing how health work­ers re­spond when they are as­signed to the town­ship.

Re­spond­ing to the MPs, Union Min­is­ter for Health and Sport U Myint Htwe said that in two months 2000 doc­tors and med­i­cal staff will be as­signed to meet the needs of the hospi­tals.

How­ever, the deputy di­rec­tor of the med­i­cal care depart­ment has pre­vi­ously ad­mit­ted to The Myan­mar Times that the min­istry is direly short on doc­tors. The new re­cruits barely be­gin to staunch the va­can­cies, with 2000 to 3000 new doc­tors needed an­nu­ally just to fill the gaps.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Myan­mar has just six doc­tors for ev­ery 10,000 peo­ple, with a ru­ral and ur­ban dis­par­ity ex­ac­er­bat­ing the short­age out­side of city cen­tres. Ac­cord­ing to a par­lia­men­tary ses­sion last month, only 37,710 med­i­cal of­fi­cers and staff serve the en­tire coun­try’s 51 mil­lion peo­ple.

Par­lia­ment’s de­bate on the Na­tional Health Pol­icy is sched­uled to con­tinue to­day.

‘We are ne­glect­ing moth­ers from ru­ral ar­eas who can­not go to ur­ban ar­eas for med­i­cal treat­ment.’

Daw Khin Saw Wai ANP lower house MP

Photo: AFP

A pa­tient sleeps on her bed in a ward at Yangon Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Yangon.

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