Eritrean health care system has shown remarkable progress in the past 18 years of independence, owing to intensive efforts to ensure the provision of health care for every national. Parallel to this, it is equally important to strengthen the administrative aspects of the health system so as to monitor and evaluate the quality of services rendered. The National Referral Hospitals Coordinating Office in the Ministry of Health was established in 2002 by the late Minister Saleh Meki so as to deal with the state affairs of referral hospitals in each region. Shabait conducted an interview with Dr. Habteab Mehari, the Director of the coordinating office regarding the activities of the office and other issues. Excerpts follow:
Could you tell us about the main tasks of the national referral hospital coordinating office?
The main responsibility of the office is to regulate the efficiency of services rendered by these referral hospitals and set up educational programs. This office also has a duty to repair any damaged medical equipments. Each referral hospital has a director and administrator that would enable the doctors and other staff members to fully concentrate on their jobs. In general, the office’s task is to make sure the referral hospitals are running smoothly.
Can you tell us about the general structure of the referral hospitals in the country?
We have referral hospitals in each region constructed at a cost of 500 million Nakfa. The national referral hospital, Orotta, comprises of 3 big hospitals, which are pediatric, maternity as well as surgical. This surgical hospital, which is equipped with latest facilities, has 200 beds, a large emergency room, intensive care and the like. Berhan Aini (optical hospital) and Kidistti Mariam are other national referral hospitals located outside the premises of Orotta. Furthermore, efforts are underway to upgrade Keren Referral Hospital with neonatal ICU in 2010 and this would continue to other referral hospitals.
What role do you think these hospitals are playing in alleviating health problems in the country?
At the present, the services rendered by these hospitals are in much better standard as the Ministry of Health is striving to equip them with the necessary facilities. We can’t say that the equipment found in the national referral hospital in Asmara is found in every regional referral hospital but at least they are better equipped than they were 5 years ago. As a result, the flow of patients to Asmara has declined considerably.
What about the role of these hospitals in reducing the number of patients who were previously compelled to go abroad to receive the required treatment?
At present we are able to treat children with medical problems like cardiac neurology and neonate, among others. In this respect, the number has declined significantly. With the ongoing endeavors to upgrade manpower we are working on providing similar treatment for adult patients as well.
How are the endeavors to cultivate skilled human resources progressing in the health sector?
The construction of referral hospitals has laid viable ground to develop sound academic system in collaboration with well-known international universities. Already, about 31 doctors graduated last December for the first time in the country. These doctors would make great contribution in duties they would be assigned. Besides, post-graduate trainings are provided aimed at further boosting the skill and knowledge local specialist in every area. Already, 8 doctors have graduated as specialists in pediatricians and about 6 general surgeons are being trained. Furthermore, the Ministry continues to try to tackle any shortcomings of health personnel in the country.
What can you tell us regards to the construction of building complex for the ear, nose and throat (ENT) hospital?
The Ministry of Health with the collaboration of German-based Medicare and Hammer Forum are constructing the building complex within the premises of Orotta Referral Hospital. The ENT complex building would have 15 rooms and 30 beds including rooms serving outpatients, a surgery room and laboratory, among others. Medical equipment worth 1-million euro is already prepared to get installed. The construction is expected to be completed with in a year.
What would be the role of the ENT unit?
The Eritrean physicians are performing the ENT services in Halibet hospital in collaboration of expatriates with limited facilities. The construction of ENT would have significant role in alleviating shortage of space encountered in Halibet hospital and delivering efficient health service to ENT patients.