Tue 17 Apr 2012
Filed under: Health / AIDS
Burma’s health care system has been compromised after years of inadequate funding and is unable to provide adequate health care to the public, the Burmese Minister of Health, in a weeklong visit to John Hopkins University in the U.S., said this week.
Speaking to an audience at the Bloomberg School, Pe Thet Khin and other health officials from the country said the purpose of the visit was to identify areas for collaboration and support, “especially in the promotion of public health activities,” as well as in areas of clinical medicine.
John Hopkins is recognized as one of the world’s leading medical institutions and it works with various countries in improving their health care capabilities.
Pe Thet Khin, a practicing pediatrician for many years, said that he has two overriding goals: to enable citizens to reach their life expectancy and to ensure that every citizen is free from disease, according to an article in the John Hopkins University Gazette.
Among Burma’s health challenges, he said, are a severe shortage of health care workers and qualified health educators, inadequate health care facilities and substandard maternal and child health care.
“We need to have a strong, well-trained and motivated workforce,” said Pe Thet Khin, who said the state health care system has been “compromised,” a word he also used to describe the health care provided at the more than 900 medical facilities throughout the country.
A top priority is improving services to mothers, infants and children, especially in the rural areas where 70 per cent of the population resides, he said in the article.
Despite the enormity of the challenges before him, Pe Thet Khin said that he is encouraged by the opening three years ago of a postgraduate public health school in his country and by discussions with Johns Hopkins officials about students from Burma taking a summer epidemiology course at the Bloomberg School in the future.
Pe Thet Khin said that the greatest impediments to health system reform going forward may be the national mindset of following orders under years of authoritarian rule, and convincing people—including his colleagues in the medical field—to begin thinking for themselves.
“We are still a fledgling democracy,” he said. “We’d like to ask you people around the world to be patient. We are not used to these democratic freedoms.”
In an article in Mizzima in August 2011, in reply to a Member of Parliament’s question, Pe Thet Khin said that his department received about 43 percent of its essential budget needs.
The shortfall will cause a severe lack of medicine and services in government hospitals, he said. He told lawmakers that medicine and other supplies were insufficient in government clinics and hospitals, and they would be unable to provide adequate health services.
Pe Thet Khin said that the required annual health budget was about 8 billion kyat (US$ 12 million), but the allotted budget was 3.5 billion kyat (US$ 4.86 million).