KABUL (Pajhwok): Residents of some areas complain about the lack of specialist doctors, health centres and necessary facilities, saying they have to travel long distances to access medical services.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) acknowledges problems in the key sector, but says that efforts are underway to address them.
People of some remote areas of the country say they are deprived of the necessary health facilities and are facing a variety of problems in this area.
The Yaftal area of northeastern Badakhshan province has four health centres, but its residents say they have to travel up to 25 kilometres on bumpy road for six to seven hours to take patients to Faizabad, the provincial capital.
Residents want problems resolved
Syed Jafar, a resident of Yaftal area, said: “A few days ago, I took my pregnant wife to the clinic, where there were few facilities. Finally, after a long travel on a bumpy road, we reached hospital. However, she did not receive proper treatment and we had to take her to Faizabad.”
Saighoor, of Yaftal area also said: “We are in living in a remote area and the road leading to our area is bumpy. It takes about six to seven hours to reach the clinic.”
Some residents of Laja Mangal district say although there are two health centres in this district, they cannot cope with meeting the health needs of all patients, with many forced to go to Gardez, the provincial capital.
Gul Sabz, a resident of Lajal Mangal, said: “Our main problem is the lack of a proper road, and that’s why we can’t get our patients to the clinic or to the city centre in time.”
Abdul Wahid, who hails from Khas Uruzgan district, said: “We have a clinic, but it has four rooms. We need doctors and medicine. Serious patients cannot be treated here,.
“Additionally, the road is in bad condition and we cannot transfer patients elsewhere. Three women have even lost their lives because of this.”
Shortage of specialist doctors
Pajhwok Afghan News findings’ show 299 male and 68 female specialists are working at health centres in 16 provinces of the country. But nine of these provinces need more than 100 other specialists.
Pajhwok asked the public health departments in 16 provinces of the country (Kapisa, Parwan, Faryab, Badghis, Kunduz, Farah, Kunar, Badakhshan, Takhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Baghlan, Laghman, Ghazni, Panjsher and Maidan Wardak) how many specialists were working at government hospitals there and how many were needed.
Information collected from them shows a total of 367 specialist doctors are working in these provinces, 299 men and 68 women.
Twenty male and six female doctors are on job in Kapisa, 16 men and six women in Parwan, 17 men and three women in Faryab, nine men and three women in Badghis, 10 men and one woman in Kunduz.
Sixteen male and two female specialists are on duty in Farah, 17 men and two women in Kunar, 22 men and eight women in Badakhshan, 35 men and 12 women in Takhar, seven men in Nuristan, 23 men and two women in Paktia, 26 men and six women in Baghlan, 21 men and three women in Laghman, 25 men and four women in Ghazni, four men in Panjsher and 31 male and 10 female doctors are working in Maidan Wardak.
Based on this information, Nuristan and Panjsher are the provinces where no female doctor is available.
107 specialists needed in 9 provinces
According to information from public health departments of these provinces, 71 male and 36 female specialists are needed in nine provinces of the country to provide proper health services to the people.
Local sources say there are 23 male and seven female doctors in Kapisa, 10 male and five female in Parwan, two male and five female in Faryab, two male and one female Kunduz, six female in Takhar, six female and one male in Nuristan, two male in Paktia, 26 male and nine female in Ghazni and two female in Panjsher.
But officials in Badghis, Farah, Kunar, Badakhshan, Laghman, Maidan Wardak and Baghlan the existing hospitals in these provinces do not need more specialist doctors.
Dr Sharafat Zaman, spokesman for MoPH, informed there were about 5,000 specialist doctors working under the ministry. Of them, 30 percent are women.
In response to a query, he said a survey had been conducted to ascertain how many doctors were needed in public-sector hospitals.
He recalled the MoPH had 30,000 staff members at the beginning of the solar year 1401. About 7,000 more people have been hired, half of them women.
Dr Qalandar Ebad, acting minister of public health, told the nation recently about the recruitment of 5,500 new employees this year. He said efforts were being made to hire more women workers.
Over the last two years, the minister added, a large number of female doctors had been appointed to provide adequate health services to the people.
After the fall of the previous government, some doctors and specialists fled Afghanistan. But MoPH has asked Afghan doctors living abroad, especially specialists, to return to their homeland.
Lack of essential drugs and equipment
The residents of some districts have said they had no option but to transfer their patients to the district centres for treatment due to non-availability or lack of necessary health equipment in the districts.
Abdul Majid, the resident of Chaharboluk district in Balkh province, brought his ill wife to the provincial capital for treatment.
He said: “There is medicines shortage or could not be found in the Hospital, when we need machines we are told that there are no medicines in the hospital, we want the officials to address this issue.
Gul Ahmad, the resident of Ghor province who brought his ill family member for treatment to the Herat Zonal Hospital, said: “We take medicines from outside most of the times, we don’t know about the situation of other people we the people of Ghor province are facing problems, my child is sick and took medicines worth 2,000 afs from outside, we conducted our laboratory tests outside, one city scan was performed inside the hospital and we were charged 500 afs.”
Herat Zonal Hospital Chief Dr. Mohammad Arif Jalali said there was shortage of equipment in the laboratory city scan and sonography.
“We at average receive 50 patients at City Scan but due to shortcomings we could entertain only 20 patients,” he said.
Drug Store Head Jalil Ahmad Hamdard said: “Earlier we had 220 types of medicines but now we have no medicine, from the past four or five months we received no medicines, the hospital is going through real troubles, most of patients themselves pay for the drugs because we have no medicines,” he said.
Parviz Ahmad Faizi, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said due to economic issue at the international level they stopped drugs supply to some hospitals, including the Herat Zonal Hospital, in April this year.
Efforts underway to overcome challenges
Acting Public Health Minister Dr. Qalandar Ebad during accountability press conference last month said: “There is no doubt about this and no one can ignore this. Some of our projects are related to international donors therefore we sometimes face problems. The basic reason is that we want to provide quality services to our people, but sometimes we observe that quality is compromised by the donors, we have had these problems for twenty years and now we have not come out of these problems completely, we also considered the development budget for this problem and sooner The problems of lack of health services in the provinces will be addressed.”
He said: “We have 400 districts and in the past only 90 districts got a district level hospital, now you can think about the state of health service in the remote areas, when you don’t have a district level hospital for 300 districts where would its residents go to address their problems, we are committed to quickly start the construction of district level hospitals for the 300 districts in two phases, four important wards — surgery, internal diseases, gynecology and children – would be available in these hospitals.”
He said 4,258 health centres are available nationwide while the ministry has 111,000 human resource strength in which 22 percent were women.
Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr. Sharafat Zaman, said: “Officials of the past regime acknowledged that 40 percent Afghanistan’s geography is deprived of basic health service, if we closely watch 50 percent Afghanistan’s geography is deprived of basic health service but now 300 new health clinics had been built and public access to health services had improved.”
He added areas totally deprived of basic health services are covered by 500 mobile health teams to provide health services to the masses.