DVB Debate: Burmacare – developing the healthcare system in Burma

This week’s DVB Debate raises the issue of public healthcare in Burma.

On the panel this week are: retired director of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Khin Maung Lwin; former World Health Organization consultant Prof. Myint Myint Khin; and from Pun Hlaing hospital, Prof. Myint Maung Maung. Special guests include Medical coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Dr. Khin Nyein Chan; director of the Traditional Medicine Department from the Ministry of Health, Kyaw Soe; and Australian emergency services specialist, Dr. Antony Chenhall.

“The leaders of this country have never thought about the future of the country before. They need to start planning ahead if things are to improve,” said retired medical professor Myint Myint Khin to applause of approval.

Prof. Myint Maung Maung agreed: “As long as the death of mothers, infants and children continues at a high rate, then this signifies low development in public healthcare.”

Myint Myint Khin said that it’s up to the Ministry of Health to educate people about healthcare. Khin Maung Lwin agreed they need to improve people’s knowledge about self-care and hygiene, but said that even though the government has increased the budget for education with regard to health, it’s still too low.

“There has been some progress, but much more needs to be done within the government’s health program”, said  Dr. Khin Maung Lwin. “The budget is $14 a year per person according to the government’s data, but actually it is even less than that.”

Education is made harder by advertisements for medicines such as liver pills, which imply to customers that they can binge drink and still be healthy. Also, there are quacks and charlatans who claim to have traditional medicines that can cure HIV, causing sick people to spend all their money on useless potions.

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Audience member Aung Myat Thu spoke of the time he was injured in a car accident. He is now permanently disabled after waiting at a hospital for several days without treatment because he could not provide payment on the spot. Special guest Dr. Anthony Chenhall from Australia emphasized the need for proper emergency care.

“The case with the gentleman with the injured foot I think really speaks to a lot of the problems”, he said. “I’m not sure of how he got from the accident site to the hospital, but I know there are no functioning emergency ambulance services – when you arrive at the hospital, there is really not a functioning emergency department, I heard it’s more difficult if you don’t come with a family member.”

To sum up, Myint Myint Maung stressed that not only do the emergency cases need attention, but that general practitioners and after-care service are also very important matters.

“Duties of family doctors; providing referrals and aftercare to follow up treatment by specialists, are also very important. So in regard to their role – in today’s discussion and redeveloping the healthcare system – while there are necessities for pretty much everything, the most important things are; the government’s commitment and implementation, and to commission family doctors; who are known as ‘general practitioners’ or ‘primary physicians’.

Despite different perspectives, the panelists generally agreed that the problem is not the quality of the care itself, but the lack of an implemented plan on the part of the government.

Next week, DVB Debate discusses the Burmese economy.

You can join the debate and watch the full programme in Burmese at www.dvbdebate.com

Or share your views with us by commenting on our website at www.dvb.no

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