The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare recently closed 16 dispensaries and health centres in Kilimanjaro Region found to have been operating illegally. Though the exercise is commendable and goes a long way in bringing sanity to the health sector, it has been long overdue.
What is more disturbing is the revelations that some dispensaries and health centres in Dar es Salaam which were banned by the government in February last year for operating at substandard level, changed names and resumed services. This prompted the ministry to issue a directive to regional medical officers and police to arrest owners of dispensaries and health centres operating in violation of a government ban.
Lack of seriousness and reluctance by the powers that be to take stern and deterrent measures against all those violating government bans is not only retrogressive but continue to endanger the lives of the public who in most cases are left with limited options and are forced by circumstances to seek medical treatment from bogus medical centres.
The unabated mushrooming of dispensaries has seen unqualified medical doctors and nurses manning some of them, something that put the lives of the public at risk as in most cases they are prescribed fake drugs. This adds insult to the injury of the ministry that is battling other problems such as shortages of medical staff, medicines and equipment that is crippling service delivery in many major hospitals and medical centres throughout the country.
The habit by unscrupulous businesspeople masquerading as doctors or medical staff who operate dispensaries against government ban is counterproductive and should not be tolerated. No progress will ever be made when it comes to improving service delivery in this country as long as the habit by health centre owners of reopening under different names as soon as the ministry's inspectors turn their backs, is not curbed.
The ministry should intensify these inspections and cover the whole country before many lives are lost at the hands of these bogus medical practitioners. And, for these inspections to be effective, regular inspections have to be carried out to make sure that those whose dispensaries would have failed to make the grade do not open without meeting the ministry's standards.
These inspections should also be done to monitor the standards of service delivery by these health centres. This will force operators of the health centres and hospitals to pull up their socks as they know that they risk losing their operating licenses if they fail the inspections.
After the inspections, those found on the other side of the law should be arrested and stern measures taken against them so as to deter would-be offenders. Wananchi on the other hand should not watch while some people deliberately dice with their lives by operating a substandard health facility. They should take it upon themselves to report such dispensaries to the responsible authorities, to safeguard their lives.
Quality health service delivery can be achieved if everyone plays his or her role.