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The flight of medical practitioners in Burundi: a threat to public health

publie le Tuesday 19 September 2023
parCommunication and Spokesperson’s Office

If the phenomenon of sick prisoners ever reappeared, it would be a resounding failure taking into account the enormous efforts that the Government had channeled into this sector. This bitter assessment was discussed during the oral questions session with debate addressed to the Minister for Public Health and the Fight against AIDS, Dr Sylvie Nzeyimana on Tuesday September 19, 2023.

Under article 183 of the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi, the Court of Audit is responsible for examining, judging and certifying the accounts of all public services. To this end, the Court has submitted final performance audit reports on the hospitals of Cibitoke, Muramvya, Muyinga and Rumonge to the National Assembly.

The Committee on Public Accounts and Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning was asked by the Bureau of the National Assembly to analyze the situation.
The committee found cases of patients escaping from hospital:

- In 2021, from January to June, Muramvya hospital recorded 189 cases of escape;
- From 2021 to 2022, Cibitoke hospital recorded 64 cases of escape;
- From 2018 to 2021, there were 269 cases of escape at Muyinga hospital.

As a reminder, the phenomenon of sick prisoners was the subject of much ink and spittle in 2004. Following its victory in the 2005 elections, the CNDD-FFD party made this challenge its own. It was in this context that it introduced free healthcare for pregnant women and women giving birth, children under the age of five, and subsidized diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

The brain drain is a phenomenon that worries many people. Doctors, especially specialists, are leaving their homeland in the open, in search of a better life. Yet, hospital accounts are brimming with money while also, paradoxically; the bank accounts of medical facilities are overflowing with money. What if these funds were used to attract doctors, said the MPs, who also proposed a partnership system. Instead of attending training sessions all day long in a workshop, we should be proposing an outright exchange of experience. If an authority from the technical ministry were to approach a development partner and point out the shortcomings of a specialist in a particular disease, the results would be immediate.

Another major challenge concerns medicines, which are becoming increasingly scarce. The trade in these vital products is unclear. Generics are the preserve of MFP (Public Service Mutual Insurance) pharmacies. Specialties have become a rare commodity.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, who had to analyze an expected bill on the subject when the committee he headed was seized of the merits, recalled that all these points were scrutinized during the last legislature. The crux of all these problems is the lack of monitoring of the laws promulgated.

Carried out over a period of four years (2018-2022), the analysis shows that the performance audit aspects implemented by the Court of Audit are not the same from one hospital to another; hence the credibility of the investigation remains doubtful.

It should be remembered that numerous recommendations were made by MPs to the Minister for Public Health, which were favorably received by that envoy of the Government.

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