The healthcare policy of the government of Eritrea is to serve the Eritrean people through full utilization of modern medicine by both building infrastructure, equipped with modern machines, as well as developing human resources.
Over the past two decades, the government has made tremendous efforts to develop capable health workers in the right numbers and in the right distribution, essential to achieve the national healthcare goals. The efforts are part of sector-wide reforms that aim to transform and strengthen the delivery of effective healthcare services throughout the country.
Before Eritrea’s independence, the total number of healthcare facilities in the country was 93 (16 hospitals, 5 health centers, 72 clinics and health stations). In the last 31 years, the number has risen to 341, including health stations and referral hospitals, giving 80% of the total population of Eritrea access to healthcare facilities by traveling a maximum of 10 km from their home.
Apart from building new and renewing existing healthcare facilities, through incremental capital investment in the past two decades the Ministry of Health (MoH) has been furnishing the facilities with modern medical equipment, and the quality of health services has improved with the introduction of new medical equipment.
The laboratories have been modernized in the last few years by introducing automatic machines. Clinical chemistry laboratories that were available only at the national laboratories are now found at the referral hospitals in all the six regions of the country. The Genexpert PCR machine has also been introduced in all national referral and regional referral hospitals.
Modern and automatic machines for blood chemistry analysis, electronic microscope, hormonal analysis and cancer screening, dialysis machines, City scan and MRI machines are among the major pieces of equipment introduced at Orotta National Referral Hospital, helping in the early diagnosis of diseases. Moreover, the Radiology Department at Orotta National Referral Hospital is now equipped with modern diagnostic equipment connected to the local area network for local doctors and an Internet-based connection with the rest of the world, making telemedicine possible.
The existing analog X-ray equipment has also been replaced with digital X-rays, making it possible for results to be presented in an A4 sheet. The ENT hospital, which is located at Orotta Hospital, is equipped with modern materials such as audiometry.
The Covid-19 central laboratory has been furnished with modern and sophisticated equipment, including a biosafety cabinet, robot reagent dispenser, RNA extractors and RT PCR, to fight the pandemic.
The introduction of solar power at health centers and generators at referral hospitals has also made a tremendous difference. The generators are used as backups during blackouts so that hospitals can perform their duties without interruption, and the solar powers help health centers in remote locations use refrigerators to safely store tablets and vaccines. Overall, there are 101 solar power sets in the six regions of the country.
The introduction of a chlorine-producing factory has helped facilitate medical and surgical activities and reduced the foreign currency expense of the MoH.
Another very important success in the last 20 years is the introduction of oxygen-producing machines at referral hospitals. The machines produce oxygen for use at the hospitals they are installed and for distribution to health stations. Orotta National Referral Hospital, Mendefera Regional Referral Hospital Barentu Regional Referral Hospital and Hospital Bet Mekea are now producing and distributing oxygen. The machines supply oxygen directly to the intensive care units, emergency wards and surgical theatres of the hospitals where they are installed, saving health workers the trouble of transporting oxygen cylinders from one place to another.