Policymakers will craft a national health plan for the next five years with the ultimate goal of achieving universal healthcare coverage by 2030, Health Minister Dr Myint Htwe said yesterday.

The Union minister was giving opening remarks at an event to officially launch the drafting process for the national health plan 2016-21, held at Grand Amara Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw.

“The plan we are going to draw up will not focus on healthcare service projects. It will be a plan to cover the whole health system,” he said. “It can further the goal of Myanmar having universal health coverage by 2030.”

Dr Thant Zin Htoo, assistant secretary for the Ministry of Health and Sport, told media that previous five-year national health plans had been unsuccessful due to a lack of cooperation with relevant organisations and a top-down bottleneck that saw lower-level health officials often waiting on orders from their superiors.

“The previous plans were weak in terms of ability to implement them in practice. Then there was weakness in reviewing the plans. So we are trying to avoid such a situation with the plan we are now drawing up,” he said.

Dr Myint Htwe said the budget for the national health plan for 2016-21 would be announced after detailed calculations were made.

Three committees have been formed to develop the plan, chaired by the Union health minister, and his ministry’s permanent and assistant secretaries.

Health officials say they intend for the plan – the first drawn up under a genuinely civilian administration – to be not “ministry-owned” but rather the creation of a participatory approach that seeks input from relevant stakeholders, including civil society and the general public.

A snapshot from Pyinmana township reveals how challenging it may be for the National League for Democracy government to strengthen a health system that was neglected for decades.

Though part of the sprawling Nay Pyi Taw Union Territory capital region, Pyinmana is largely rural and its residents are an assortment of vendors, farmers and daily wage earners.

For many, affordable healthcare options are limited to basic pharmaceuticals. Daw Hmat Gyi, who sells thapyay leaves in Thegyun village, Pyinmana township, said daily profit from her business is typically K5000 (US$4), and is spent on food and other household expenditures for her family of four.

“If we have a headache, we take Decolgen or Mixagrip … We never get medical check-ups,” she said, adding that she did not suffer from diabetes, hypertension or other “rich people diseases”.

A visit to the 200-bed Pyinmana Hospital is reserved for broken limbs and other serious health problems, she said.

Another woman, a 30-year-old from Pyinmana township’s Mingalar ward who asked for anonymity, described how, experiencing pregnancy complications, she once “secretly” checked herself out of Pyinmana Hospital and went to a local clinic instead. Doctors at the hospital, she said, had failed to alleviate her pain with a treatment regimen of the mild pain reliever paracetamol and an injection that had no effect.

“My aunt cared for me at the hospital,” she said. “I told my aunt to ask for help from the doctors to relieve my pain but when my aunt told the doctors, they scolded her. When I asked my aunt a second time to go to the doctor, she dared not go.”

Ultimately, she spent three days at the Yezin clinic, had a miscarriage and was saddled with K287,000 in medical bills.

“The amount is two-thirds of our family’s income and we had to live with insufficient money for about three months,” she told The Myanmar Times.

The national health plan for the next five years will be divided into four specific categories, covering projects related to health infrastructure, human resources, health services and financing.

The retired deputy director general of the Department of Public Health under the Ministry of Health and Sport, Dr Nilar Tin, said these projects’ success would be gauged in part on how effectively they benefit remote and conflict-affected parts of the country.

“The remote regions are facing a lack of healthcare providers mainly because of geographic difficulties, financial difficulties, and different cultures and opinions. Everybody knows this,” she said.

“We will discuss with knowledgeable people from these regions and get advice from them and do projects [aimed at providing] full health services.”

Translation by Thiri Min Htun and Win Thaw Tar

Link: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/nay-pyi-taw/23071-health-plan-aims-for-universal-care-by-2030.html