(By Masuzyo Chakwe and Natalie Ngosa)
THE Ministry of Health says it will soon introduce fertility clinics in all the provinces as part of enhanced reproductive health services.
Health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya said the clinics will feed into the women and children specialist hospital to be constructed with support from the Saudi fund.
Dr Chilufya said this during the conference of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists focused on infertility and fistula care in Dubai.
“In our relentless pursuit of universal health coverage, the PF government under His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, will introduce fertility clinics in all the provinces as part of enhanced reproductive health services,” Dr Chilufya said according to the ministry’s head of communications and external relations Stanslous Ngosa.
Merck Foundation, a global humanitarian organisation, has since partnered with the Zambian government to train fertility experts and link the Ministry of Health to the network of stakeholders dealing with infertility equipment.
Two Zambian doctors have since been awarded Merck scholarships to train as fertility experts in India.
Dr Chilufya said infertility is not only a public health challenge but a socio-cultural and emotional issue that has led to gender based violence HIV/AIDS and STIs due to multiple sexual partners in search of children, property grabbing after demise of a spouse.
He said infertility accounted for 10 to 15 per cent of the Outpatient Gynaecology Clinic attendances in Zambian and yet access to fertility services were seriously limited due to the high cost of services which were currently restricted to a few urban private facilities.
Dr Chilufya has further called for greater investment in comprehensive reproductive health including fertility services and destigmatisation of infertility and reduction of cost of treatment services.
Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya says referring patients abroad for specialist treatment has taken a toll on the treasury.
Speaking during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Apollo Hospitals Enterprises Limited of India on cooperation in the field of health services on Wednesday, Dr Chilufya said the Zambians government was committed to providing quality health services to the citizens.
“His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu remains committed to deliver quality health services to all Zambians. Part of this service includes tertiary level care. The challenge we have had in the past is inadequate infrastructure, equipment and human resource to provide a certain level of tertiary service. So, we had to refer a lot of patients outside the country that has taken a heavy toll on the treasury and we want to stop that,” Dr Chilufya said.
“It is within our strategic framework to ensure that we improve our facilities so that we reduce referrals abroad and enable more Zambians to access tertiary level services. This MoU with Apollo hospitals has provided a rare opportunity for us to develop the human capital we need through exchange, programme, two, to improve service delivery. As we do the operations locally, services locally…skills transfer will be taking place, our University that is coming up-the medical university will also work closely with the team from Apollo to provide lectures, some online lectures, some when specialists are visiting.”
He said the MoU will improve service delivery and access to tertiary level services for children with cardiac challenges.
Dr Chilufya said there were a lot of children with cardiac problems on the list, adding that operations would be done at a cheap price whether locally or abroad.
“It is sustainable because in the long run, we will have adequate human capital and adequate service infrastructure to provide such services. I take this opportunity to thank the vice president representing Apollo Dr Sidhu, the government of India for enabling the environment for us to engage effectively with the private sector in India. This marks a new era in the way we provide health services for the people of this country,” said Dr Chilufya.
And Apollo Hospitals vice president corporate development Dr Harinder Sidhu said the hospital was happy to work with the Zambian government to improve health service delivery.
“We are committing with the ministry of health to start doing more surgeries in Zambia so that people stop travelling outside. We also want to build capacity and share experience. I stay committed on behalf of the Apollo family that we are going to work together to ensure that we achieve the objective of this MoU,” said Dr Sidhu.