In the National Assembly |11 May 2022
Health minister answers several questions from members
Minister for Health Peggy Vidot was in the National Assembly yesterday to answer several questions regarding her ministry.
Number of workers on GOP employed in the pharmaceutical sector
Hon. Gervais Henrie, MNA of the majority party Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) for Mont Buxton, asked the minister if the health authorities see the number of workers on gainful occupation permit (GOP) employed in the pharmaceutical sector as a concern and what actions are being undertaken to address the situation to provide more job opportunities in the sector for Seychellois.
Minister Vidot replied that they do feel concerned but unless the country reaches the point where it can provide sufficient number of Seychellois pharmacists, they will continue to see expatriates being given GOP to work in the sector.
Minister Vidot explained that the pharmacist law in the country makes it a must for all private pharmacies in the country to have at least one professional pharmacist working in a pharmacy. She added that the ministry is very concerned about the lack of local pharmacists in the country and unless more young people decode to take it as a career, we will continue to be dependent on expatriate pharmacists.
She stated that the ministry employs only two pharmacists on GOP ‒ one with the Health Care Agency and the other is a lecturer at the National Institute of Health and Social Studies (NIHSS) ‒ and also employs 46 pharmacy technicians. She further stated that there are 28 pharmacists on GOP in the private sector and 19 pharmacy technicians among whom seven are expatriates on GOP.
Minister Vidot explained that pharmacy is a specialised domain and to be a technician in the field requires four years of study and an additional one to two years for specialisation to be a pharmacist. She added that pharmacy technicians trained locally, require three years of training. She is encouraging young Seychellois to take a career in health, especially as pharmacist now that the latter is on the priority list at the Agency for National Human Resource Development (ANHRD). She noted that there are only two Seychellois pharmacy technicians currently on overseas training to become pharmacist.
In his supplementary question, Hon. Henrie wanted to know why expatriate pharmacy technicians are being allowed to work in the country when there are sufficient Seychellois pharmacy technicians.
Minister Vidot replied that the private sector looks for local pharmacy technicians but they have no option but to look elsewhere if no one applies for the job.
Hon. Audrey Vidot from minority party United Seychelles (US), wanted to know what the government is doing at Cabinet level to address GOP in the health sector which has overlapped into in the private sector.
Minister Vidot said the answer lies with the department of employment but the health ministry is trying to encourage young people to take up pharmacy as a career to replace the expatriates.
In his question to the minister, Hon. Richard Labrosse, from the majority party, asked what measures the ministry is taking to ensure that services that were stopped during Covid-19 are back in place as quickly as possibly taking into account the backlog in cases.
Minister Vidot stated that all health services are slowly getting back to normal and that is also helping to reduce the backlog accumulated during the peak of the pandemic. She said the reason to limit or revoke certain health services on offer was to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus but more importantly to redeploy staff in areas providing treatment to Covid-19 patients, vaccination centres and for contact tracing. She added that the remaining staff would not have been enough and would not have been able to cope with all the work if all the services were allowed to run as before. She noted though that all essential services did continue. In view that the pandemic is still ongoing, she called on patients to bear with the ministry as some health centres are still being used to cater for Covid-19 cases.
Smoke from incinerator at the Seychelles Hospital
Hon. Michel Roucou from the majority party questioned the minister on what the ministry is doing to resolve the issue of smoke from the incinerator at the Seychelles Hospital which is affecting the residents at Hermitage.
Minister Vidot said the ministry is doing its utmost to contain the situation and regrets that the smoke is causing a nuisance to the residents.
She stated that the ministry has had a good maintenance programme for the incinerator but has since 2020 seen an increase in infectious waste coming from ministry’s incinerator as well as from the private one as a result of Covid-19. She said it has been noticed that the incinerator produces more smoke when it is filled up beyond recommended capacity. She added that the ministry is looking to replace the incinerator but in the meantime it will ensure that the staff operate the incinerator in the manner that it should be operated.
Minister Vidot further added that as the incinerator was commissioned in 2011 and is reaching the end of its lifespan, work is underway to replace it with a new and modern waste treatment system which will not produce smoke but would rather vaporise and compress the medical waste for disposal without the risk of contamination. The new modern waste system will cost €850,000.
For her part, Hon Sylvanne Lemiel from the minority party asked the minister what are the problems being encountered by the ministry that is preventing it to make provision for quality medicine for cancer patients. She said her questions follows concerns by a group of cancer patients who have complained that they are not getting the necessary quality medicine for their treatment.
Minister Vidot said the ministry does its best to provide cancer patients with appropriate and best quality medicine for their treatment. She stated that the ministry buys medicines that have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from reputed medicine regulators. She added that the quality control unit in the ministry, certified by IMO 17025, also conducts tests on all medicines to ensure that they are of the best quality. She noted that there are 24 types of cancer medicines being administered to cancer patients and the ministry makes sure that those medicines are not out of stock and are purchased at an affordable price.
With regards to surgical operations taking place at the hospital, Minister Vidot said that all planned surgical interventions were conducted except for only four cases in April which have been postponed as a result of the central air conditioning and the hot water system which were not working at the time. She said while the ministry awaits for spares, it has put in place temporary arrangement for surgical interventions to continue.
Hon. François Adelaide of LDS questioned Minister Vidot on services being offered by the dialysis centre and if it is considering decentralising the service to south-west Mahe due to appointments and transportation constraints by patients to access the service in Victoria.
Minister Vidot said that the ministry is offering dialysis services to 174 patients at the Seychelles Hospital and 10 patients at the Baie St Anne hospital who are provided with transport to and from the hospitals based on their appointments. She noted that while the policy of the ministry is to bring health services closer to the community, the main challenge is professional human resources. She added that the ministry will look to decentralise certain specialised services when the time is right.
With regards to a question by Hon. Georges Romain from the majority party, on the state of the blood bank and what strategy is being used by the ministry for continuous replenishment, Minister Vidot said that blood is always in demand and it is never enough especially those groups that are considered as very rare. She said the ministry will continue to conduct outreach programmes to attract more blood donors.