In­ter­view with Min­is­ter of Health Dr Myint Htwe

The Myanmar Times - - News -

THE World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) held its an­nual South­east Asia re­gional con­fer­ence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from Septem­ber 5 to 9. On the side­lines of the con­fer­ence, The Myan­mar Times’ Aung Shin spoke with Dr Myint Htwe, Union Min­is­ter for Health and Sport. The in­ter­view has been edited for clar­ity and length.

What have you mainly dis­cussed at the con­fer­ence? The WHO holds th­ese con­fer­ences an­nu­ally to re­view what ev­ery coun­try in the re­gion has ac­com­plished within the last year. Ev­ery coun­try presents their health sec­tor needs, and the re­gional health min­is­ters dis­cuss the WHO projects in their coun­try and whether they are per­form­ing well or not. This year, our dis­cus­sions have fo­cused on non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases and also uni­ver­sal health­care.

What are the main health is­sues in Myan­mar? We are now start­ing in Myan­mar to up­date our health in­for­ma­tion sys­tem. It is a very im­por­tant step. In ev­ery coun­try, con­di­tions of dis­ease out­break and con­trol de­pend on hav­ing pre­cise sta­tis­tics. Some coun­tries make an­nounce­ments about dis­ease erad­i­ca­tion and out­break con­trol with im­pre­cise data. But ev­ery coun­try needs to make sure their health in­for­ma­tion sys­tems are strong. We call it “sys­tem­a­ti­sa­tion”. Without that, plan­ning or pro­jec­tions can go wrong.

Is this your pri­or­ity un­der the new govern­ment in Myan­mar? Yes, we have been start­ing on that. We have a lot to do for the sys­tem­a­ti­sa­tion of the health sec­tor. The work­ing pro­ce­dures of the health sec­tor, in all the min­istry’s of­fices, need to be stan­dard­ised. We also must stan­darise codes of ethics for all per­son­nel in the health sec­tor, such ethics for doc­tors, ethics for nurses and ethics for med­i­cal sci­ence. We are work­ing on th­ese is­sues.

The pri­vate health sec­tor is grow­ing fast in Myan­mar, with most peo­ple re­ly­ing on pri­vate hos­pi­tals and clin­ics. How will the Min­istry of Health reg­u­late the pri­vate health sec­tor? This is why we have the Myan­mar Med­i­cal Coun­cil, which I chair. We have to co­op­er­ate with the pri­vate health sec­tor and also mon­i­tor what they are do­ing to see whether their med­i­cal treat­ment is qual­i­fied or not, whether they are ask­ing fair charges for treat­ment or not. We can­not let them op­er­ate without over­sight. At the same time, we [the pub­lic health sec­tor] have to mon­i­tor our health ser­vices too to en­sure qual­ity ser­vices.

Many peo­ple com­plain about the poor stan­dards of medicine, with a lot of fake medicine dis­trib­uted lo­cally. How will the Min­istry of Health con­trol this pri­vate medicine mar­ket? This falls un­der the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Myan­mar Med­i­cal Coun­cil. Peo­ple can com­plain to the min­istry or file a med­i­cal case. The coun­cil will ex­am­ine whether the case is true or not, and whether it is a mis­take or mis­un­der­stand­ing. The med­i­cal coun­cil must mon­i­tor the whole med­i­cal ser­vice sec­tor … So far not many is­sues or case have been re­ceived, only a few.

You pre­sented some­thing about the health bud­get at this WHO re­gional con­fer­ence. What was it? WHO has a lot of health projects in each coun­try. They must re­view which projects are the more im­por­tant. It shouldn’t hap­pen that a large share of the bud­get goes to less im­por­tant project. So the WHO has to re­view their bud­get­ing sys­tem to en­sure the most im­por­tant projects get the most fund­ing.

An­other hot is­sue at this con­fer­ence is the Zika virus. The WHO has con­firmed Zika cases in Thai­land, Sin­ga­pore and In­done­sia. What has Myan­mar done to pre­pare for that dis­ease? We have stan­dard pro­ce­dure guide­lines for all dis­ease out­breaks. We have alerted all re­spon­si­ble depart­ments and per­son­nel. We are not care­less about Zika or any dis­ease out­break. It is not an easy job if we have some in­fec­tions of that dis­ease.

There are some coun­tries an­nounc­ing they have of­fi­cially erad­i­cated some dis­eases, meet­ing the UN’s Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals. We have never heard of this hap­pen­ing in Myan­mar. What MDGs has Myan­mar achieved? You should ask other the coun­tries if th­ese an­nounce­ments are tech­ni­cally true or for a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of their hav­ing met MDGs or erad­i­cat­ing par­tic­u­lar dis­eases. Ac­tu­ally, no one has achieved the MDGs. It is im­pos­si­ble so far. The sys­tem­a­ti­sa­tion of the health sec­tor is still poor.

Photo: Pyae Thet Phyo

Dr Myint Htwe, min­is­ter for health, pre­sides over a cer­e­mony in Nay Pyi Taw on Au­gust 10.

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