By Madol Chien
Since Dr. Riek Gai Kook was appointed dé charge of ministry of health – South Sudan, two things were distinctive of his reign, states tours and upgrading of health care centers. What is heard of him is a typical from a person who hasn’t had experience of health care facilities in this country. Nothing has changed apart from undeserved – media misled – credit.
When he frequently visited Eastern Lakes State – Yirol, he upgraded the Yirol County Hospital to Yirol State Hospital and that sparked anxiety among many citizens of the State. I challenged the rationale of upgrading health care centers by name without improving or providing services proportional to the status of the facilities.
If Yirol County Hospital was to get upgraded, it was the service that it delivers that has to sanctify that status. Unfortunately, the level is drastically falling from County hospital to a village Primary Health Care Unit (PHCU) in terms of medical and nursing care to patients. Few years back, Yirol County hospital was joining race with high standard hospitals like Mary Immaculate Hospital, Mapuordit when it was under CUAM-doctors with Africa.
Today, it is difficult and different when the ministry of health took over management of the hospital. Few months ago, a circular from National Ministry of Health, known as “harmonized payment” of all health workers across the country was introduced and health workers under NGOs contracts were affected through a severe paycut. In Yirol, a trained nurse was earning $300 and $500 for a clinical officer. All the contracts were with CUAM-Doctors with Africa. The policy sliced their salaries to $150 and $250 respectively.
It provoked a strike in Yirol State Hospital that led to torture and arrest of medical practitioners. The peasantry, as usual, was the victim. The Undersecretary of the said Ministry went to Yirol in hope of settling the issue in a more adminstrative manner only to terminate a nurse who, in good faith, was expressing his dissatisfaction. Every health worker was left on a warning of losing his/her job if they stand up for their rights.
Today, Yirol State Hospital is as lousy that many patients seek alternative in private clinics where they are heavily exploited for treatment. Those with no money go traditional for herbs and witchery. Yet the government still hold to responsibility that it can’t allow humanitarian agencies to take over our health Care system. There is no weakness in asking for help!
I continue to question the pliability of ministry of health and Dr. Riek in providing services in public health care facilities in Juba, States and villages. Yet, it is one of the ministries that receives huge international fundings and in equal measure, allocated huge government budget annually. It definitely goes unintended ways in Juba and States.
The tours. As I learnt his political ability stemmed from National Congress Party training school, he would well know the importance of media in politics. He only needed to be on the headlines to keep touch with the Big man. Otherwise the fruits of states and counties tours would yield improvement in areas visited a year or two ago or least his work would manifest in public hospitals in Juba.
This unscrupulous attitude from many public officers has proven the President’s blunt blast during Bar El Gazhal tour that some ministers deceive him to have delivered some services for him to keep them in offices in hope for doing more to South Sudanese. A game of lies! Our health care system requires a person of integrity and a nationalist who will have to forego some personal satisfaction for the people of South Sudan.