Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hands-on health care monitoring, Mozambique style

Somehow it is hard to imagine this happening outside Africa. Mozambique's Health Minister, Ivo Garrido, has started to make a habit of dropping in on local health clinics during the night shift, apparently to see how things are going. And to pitch in. Last Tuesday, he performed minor surgery on a taxi fare collector who was admitted with a throat laceration. After that, he headed over to the ICU, the maternity and the pediatric wards to field complaints and offer guidance. Yes, have no fear, Dr. Garrido is a licenced surgeon.

Mozambique's clinics can use the help. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has hit the country hard, and the health care sector has been severely affected. As Garrido has stated himself, some 6000 health care workers are predicted to die from AIDS by 2010, undermining the government's plan to aggressively expand delivery of antiretroviral treatment, and weakening primary care services as a whole. That's not counting the numbers of doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians moving to greener pastures in South Africa, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

In this perspective, Garrido's nocturnal journeys are nothing strange; it is simply what medical ethics demands in dire circumstances.


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