Diagnostics Critical For Better Health Outcomes, Says Health Minister

AT a time when the country’s public health system is shrouded in diagnostic equipment crisis, this gap should be bridged for Zimbabwe to have better health outcomes, Health Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo has said.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

Researches have been done on the challenges faced by the HIV community in accessing viral load test results. Viral load testing is done through diagnostic equipment from Samba Diagnostics, Abbott Diagnostics to mention but these few.

Hospitals are said to have dumped obsolete and broken equipment due to ignorance.

Dr Moyo noted diagnostics are a critical component for improved health outcomes.

Eighty percent of outcomes or diagnosis should be dependent on diagnostics. We are no longer practicing guesswork. It’s not guess work medicine. A proper diagnostics outcome is one which is fully supported by scientific evidence,” he said. “The result which comes out of the laboratory equipment, the laboratory tests should link and guide the clinician on the best way to treat the patient. It’s no longer guess work. Pathology is medicine. And medicine is pathology.”

Worse yet, according to the Health Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, hospitals have junkyards of obsolete, dysfunctional equipment.

“You know if you go at the back of hospitals, you see junkyards full of old antiquated broken down machines. That us as a result of buying equipment where you are not supposed to buy equipment. You are supposed to buy placements and the companies are the ones supposed to replace the machines as they age or as new technologies come into play. They will upgrade those machines,” he said.

He concisely explained pathology.

“When I am talking of pathology, I am not talking only that of the deceased, morbid anatomy. I’m talking in terms of clinical pathology covering chemical pathology, microbiology, parasitology, and immunology. All those issues are relevant in the diagnosis of disease,” he said.

The Health Minister said imaging is a key factor in diagnosis.

“You can clinically make a diagnosis but you get the absolute confirmation with a full report coming from the radiologist. So this is the way we have to go. We want to make sure that the equipment we are buying is the latest in technology,” he said.

He said they have to urgently address availability of functional equipment to improve quality health delivery.

“You find that most of our equipment will be obsolete and therefore we have to have a plan of replacing the obsolete equipment. We must have systems in place for the acquisition of equipment in the country,” said Dr Moyo.

The Health Ministry last week established a technical committee for the purchase of medical equipment in public hospitals composed of NatPharm board members and end users of the equipment who are key. The committee according to the Minister should have end users guiding the NatPharm members led by Dr Harunavamwe Notburga Chifamba on the requisite equipment needed in public hospitals.

Zimbabwe Aids Network Coordinator Taurai Nyandoro said there was need for the country to have more domestic resources channeled towards medication and equipment. However,  Zimbabwe through international, local and donor collaboration has been getting the equipment into its hospitals.

“Viral Load testing as part of treatment. Let’s not look at viral load in isolation. If we are to achieve our treatment, prevention and retention targets, we also need to ensure our viral load testing coverage is at optimum levels. So lets not look further than intensifying treatment literacy, and last year we developed a new Treatment literacy manual, in collaboration between ZAN, Ministry of Health, NAC and UNAIDS.

We are simplifying to be be accessible to our communities including for people with visual impairments. Secondly I propose accelerated decentralization of Viral load testing, reduce the turn around time between sample collection and availability of results. Tied to this, is the work we can do as CSOs to drive demand generation,” he said.

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