Private institutions are lacking qualified personnel and infrastructure
The government in Cameroon wants to shut down more than 524 medical training centres as well as 600 private clinics that are not authorised by the national Medical Counsel. “We have started to organise the uncontrolled medical sector,” assured Biwole Sida, national inspector of the Ministry of Health.
Most of the private institutions are lacking qualified personnel and the correct infrastructure in order to pass the standard for being regular training centres or hospitals. According to Sida, it would be careless to allow these centres to keep operating without regulations. He said that they were responsible for numerous errors in treatment, deaths and health damages.
Such an institution can also be found in the student district Bonamusadi in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. It offers a large number of services. One of them is the treatment of pregnant women and children. Until recently it had also had an emergency ward, but it was closed down. “Since the government is planning to shut down the private clinics, we are only operating with appointments,” says Helen Evinga, an employee.
François Penda is a doctor in the emergency ward of the Central Hospital in Yaounde. He thinks it is a good idea to shut down the controversial private health institutions. “Most of the patients that arrive here half-dead have been through an odyssey in numerous small private centres,” he says and emphasises how important it is to offer the patients professional help.
High costs at state-run clinics
But private providers argue that they have established themselves as cheap alternatives to the expensive state-run clinics. Maxwel Fonyu, a laboratory worker and head of a small hospital in Yaounde, explained that the state-run clinics would not be able to treat patients of all social classes. “Furthermore, the demand is so high that the patients cannot get the treatment they need.”
He explains that his clinic charges one US-Dollar for a Malaria test. At the public institutions patients have to pay ten times more for the same test. “I also prescribe effective medicine that is affordable, too.”
Bidjogo Atangana, secretary general of the National Medical Council, holds the government responsible for the existence of the numerous illegal and technically underserved clinics. According to Atangana, the government has liberalised the sector two decades ago. In the course of this liberalisation, the foundation of health care centres as Non-Profit Community Initiatives (CIG) was being allowed and thus the problem increased.
Etienne Tsou, member of the medical faculty of the Catholic University, argues that Cameroon is lacking skilled personnel. Still, he says, it must be ensured that people don’t have to go to quacks. According to Tsou, there are many qualified doctors in Cameroon; the problem is that they are paid much higher wages in other parts of the world. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 5,000 doctors from Cameroon are working abroad.
Half of the doctors are not practising
According to Tetanye Ekoe, vice chairman of the National Medical Association, there are 4,200 trained doctors in the country at this time. But only half of them are working as doctors. Of the other half, 1,000 are working as administration officials in the Ministry of Health. The other 1,100 are either working at the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of the University of Yaounde I or they are employed by NGOs and the private sector.
More than 500 Cameroonians per year complete their medical studies and 5,000 qualify as caregivers in the country with a population of 21 million people. The lack of health care personnel makes it nearly impossible for the West African country to reach the goal of one doctor for 10,000 people, which was set by World Health Organisation. According to Ekoe, the proportion in the far north and in the eastern provinces is one to 50,000.
The CEFOMEC hospital is not affected
Of course, only qualified medical staff will be employed in the hospital of CEFOMEC, which is being built at the moment,. This way CEFOMEC also creates jobs in the structurally weak area around Lomié. The CEFOMEC hospital would not be affected by a possible shut down.