Patients in Namibia can now be treated by locally trained doctors who the government hopes will help transform the country’s health sector, according to BBC. Before the country’s first medical school was opened in 2010, medical students in Namibia had to seek training overseas. Some went to neighboring South Africa, while others traveled to as far as Russia and China.
With the first batch of 37 doctors graduating from the School of Medicine at the University of Namibia earlier this year, many people believe the country is on track to find a lasting solution to its doctor shortage problem.
“We are now training more doctors than ever. Our research has shown that in our hospitals, we need multiple disciplines including pharmacists, physiotherapists, and dentists to work alongside doctors. We believe we are now taking steps in the right direction,” Namibia’s Deputy Minister for Health Juliet Kavetuna said.
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In the past, the Namibian government has spent millions of dollars to fund medical students studying overseas. The majority of these graduates preferred to work in the private sector, which offers better pay and working conditions.
Kavetuna now expects the situation to change since the locally trained doctors understand the country’s public health sector better and are willing to work in rural areas.
The Medical Sciences Center at the University of Namibia, which is still under construction, started with only 50 students but now has 400, with the majority of them coming from local communities.
Some students who had traveled overseas are now coming back to finish their studies at the institution.
“I think there are many people that are interested in studying medicine but they couldn’t because that course wasn’t offered here and they couldn’t afford the extra costs of studying overseas; so having our own university helps,” Jennifer Muyenga-Muyenga, a student at the University of Namibia noted.
The health sector in Namibia has had its fair share of setbacks, mainly due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and socioeconomic inequality in the country.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services currently focuses its resources on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
Health services in Namibia are offered through both the public and private health sectors. Currently, there are 1,150 outreach points, 309 clinics and health centers, 29 district hospitals, and four intermediate and referral hospitals in Namibia, according to the African Health Observatory.