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16 Sep 2008
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Tuesday, 16 September, 2008, 22:14 ( 20:14 GMT )
Opinion: There Remains a Dire Need for a Health Secretariat in Libya
By Elmahdi A. Elkhammas, FACS
16/08/2008 19:45:00
Two years ago I expressed my individual feeling in a small article that was posted on Ibnosina website (www.ibnosina.org); I titled it as "Let us prepare for 2007". Most likely, it was read by very few people.

I came cross it today and read it to remind my self of what I wrote. If you are interested the following link takes you to the article from that was published more than a year ago.

In any case after reading it I decided to express my feeling today. In one sentence, when I wrote this article, the hot topic among Libyan health professionals as well as the public at large was the treatment abroad.

Unless I am out of touch because of distance or illness, I am not sure that we have solved this issue yet. Our boarders with Tunisia are still quit busy with medical tourists who either sold their belongings or borrowed money to go for treatment in Zarzis, Sfax and Sousse and all the way to Tunis. The same goes if you visit Tripoli international air port. The planes to Jordan, Egypt and Europe have fair amount of Libyan medical tourists too. I call them medical tourists for the lack of a better term.

Some have suggested to me that these patients are not very smart. They are leaving excellent care in Libya to spend their money on a commercial one abroad.

I certainly do not agree with this opinion. Excellent, average or poor care is outside the topic for this treatise. It is the trust in the Libyan public health system is what seems to be driving people to seek medical care abroad. It seems that such a trust is way below any measures. At least that is my opinion and I am happy to see that I am wrong.

Along with the problem of continuing seeking treatment abroad by Libyan citizens, I see that there are other issues are currently being added to the discussion agenda in the country such as whether it is necessary to have a secretariat of health or not.

This question is too big for my hat but I may predict that the elimination of the secretariat of health will worsen the problem. I say this for the following reasons:

1. Secretary of health has a huge responsibility coordinating many needs for the entire country. Such responsibility can not be done by the individuals in their own municipal jurisdictions. National disease prevention and control centers, vaccination, infection control, medical personnel supply and many others can be done only at the national level.

2. The health laws that deal with delivery of health care, ethical issues, medical errors are initiated and modified on a national level rather than a municipal level.

3. At this point I see such discussion is really taking the country backwards. Other health professionals are functioning beyond the infrastructure issues and we are discussing how we are going to function for the rest of the year. This appears to be placing the health officials in Libya at a point of mental paralysis. They simply can not think long-term with this issue at hand.

4. I see the health services in Libya and their complex problems to be beyond the abilities and vision of one person. I think we need a task force that is working full time with credible charges, budget, authority, time table and accountability.

5. The bottom-line is the need for redesign and implementation of a health system with very long-term goals. A health service that is transparent and have a clear target that is the health of all citizens. Regarding the name no problem. You may call it Department, administration, Secretariat or authority or whatever as long as it takes good care of our citizens.

About the author
The author is a Transplant Surgeon at Ohio State University. Columbus, Ohio, USA. He contributed this article to The Tripoli Post. He can be reached at: elkhammas.1[at]osu[dot]edu
This article has ( 2 ) Comment(s)
Name: M. S.
Date: 16/08/2008 22:47:37
Well written Dr. Elkhammas, I personally believe where sectorial issues and development is concerned; all sectors can be represented with a triangular shape with 'management', 'education' and 'law' representing its 3 corners. However where health-care in particular is concerned within that triad and its three corners lies a core element entitled 'reputation/trust'...only when full efforts and focus are placed on all three corners of the triad can that core of reputation and trust be reestablished and developed.

This needs to be taken into serious consideration at all levels...
Name: Thair El Heri
Date: 09/10/2008 13:45:07
The standard of Health Care in Libya is poor.
Having some knowledge gained from my Grandfather Dr Epsom holding the position of Chief Medical Officer of Greater London, working directly with with the former British Minister Edward Heath in his constituency.
I can say again we come back to the issue of corruption.
Our religion Islam encourages us to work for the blessings of Allah and prohibits bribes ect..
Assuming that health officials are being paid fairly then they must make a contribution to their society by providing a good service.
We should all support our Leader of the Revolution in distributing Libya's oil wealth that will enable families to pay for health care privately.
The public sector failed to provide adequate health care.
The Oil Wealth distribution program will allow less fortunate Libyan families to pay for top quality health care locally who would otherwise be unable to afford the cost of traveling abroad.

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