Health minister Peggy Vidot answers questions on her ministry |27 September 2023
The Minister for Health, Peggy Vidot, was in the National Assembly yesterday morning to answer various questions relating to her ministry.
She was accompanied by the chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Dr Danny Louange, the commissioner of Public Health Authority, Dr Jude Gedeon and the acting principal secretary, Dr Susan Fock-Tave.
There were twelve questions by the different members and the first question was from Hon. Andy Labonte, the elected member for English River who wanted to know about the implementation of the National Drug Control Master Plan following the ministry taking over of the functions of the Agency for Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR).
Minister Vidot said that the master plan for 2018-2023 to reduce the amount of drugs entering the country, to reduce risk and damage, and to reduce demand, is coming to its end and for the time being the ministry is still implementing it until a new one is drafted.
She added that given the current master plan gears more towards reduction in supply and demand, faced with the drug and alcohol addiction disease, the ministry’s approach in the next master plan will focus more on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
“After conducting an evaluation of the current master plan in collaboration with our partners we will analyse the drug situation in the country and we will draft a new plan based on the drug situation and on the needs of today. This will help us to address prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and addiction in a more comprehensive manner,” Minister Vidot said.
Answering a supplementary question by Hon. Labonte with regard to the storage of methadone, Minister Vidot stated that storage of the control drug is not done at the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) clinic at English River as believed but rather stored at military facilities belonging to the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF).
She noted that the ministry was allocated R800,000 for a storage facility for storing of methadone but it has not been easy to find an appropriate space given the poor security measures to store the many bottles of the liquid medicine.
She added that given the plan to build a new rehabilitation centre opposite the Mat clinic, it will also cater for a storage facility for the methadone. She noted that the Ministry of Health is the sole importer and administrator of methadone in the country.
The elected member for Baie St Anne Praslin, Hon Churchill Gill, asked the minister, based on the 2023 budget, how much was spent to address problems at the Baie St Anne hospital and the other clinic on Praslin. In her response, Minister Vidot said that R38.5 million has been allocated in the budget for the Baie St Anne hospital and the health centre at Grand Anse Praslin excluding medical supplies, cleaning purposes, consumable goods and medical equipment which falls under the budget of the Health Care Agency.
Minister Vidot stated that a total of R23 million have been spent on the Baie St Anne Hospital as at the end of August this year which represent 60% of what was budgeted for Praslin during this time.
Giving more details, she said that R22 million were spent on salaries for workers, R3.4 million on evacuation of patients and staff, R1.5 million on security, R345,000 was spent on house rental, R692,000 on food for patients and staff who come to Praslin, R682,000 on electricity, R94,000 on water and R62,000 on telephone service.
The minister added that other expenses to come will go towards the staff quarters, laundry, oxygen and eye clinic projects including maintenance work on the hospital roofing.
She further added that Praslin hospital will receive an additional transport soon.
She also took the opportunity to thank the residents of Praslin for their contribution to the island’s health system.
The elected member for Anse Royale, Hon. Sylvanne Lemiel, asked the minister on the ministry’s intention with regard to its property, C7843, situated in front of the Anse Royale old people’s home.
“This piece of land forms part of the property of the Anse Royale Hospital. It will be developed to cater for the improvement of the health service in South Mahé in the future. But for the moment we intend to build a youth health centre as we would like to decentralise the service. We will propose for the project to appear in the 2026 budget. Given the many education institutions in Anse Royale, a youth health centre would fit the purpose of assisting and training youths in health in the region,” said Minister Vidot, who noted that the ministry has an agreement in the meantime with the Seychelles Defence Forces to help keep the place clean on a regular basis.
With regard to the creation of an emergency centre and outpatient clinic at the Anse Royale Hospital, Minister Vidot said the ministry is working in collaboration with a donor to realise the two projects which will be on an international standard.
She said that there will be consultation with residents before the two projects get off the ground.
On the ministry’s progress to install a standby generator including its plan to renovate the Anse Boileau health centre asked by the district’s elected member Hon Phillip Arissol, Minister Vidot said the tender for the generator has been launched and after the tendering process the ministry expects it to be installed soon after.
She added that the provision of a generator is a priority given the centre provides health services on a 24-hour basis. With regard to renovation of the health centre, Minister Vidot said that given challenges, renovation and maintenance works take place whenever the need arises.
In her question, the elected member for Ile Perseverance, Hon. Desheila Bastienne, asked Minister Vidot that given the rise in the number of houses on the island can the ministry consider revising the service at the Family Hospital to include space for a community health centre to ease pressure on the English River clinic.
Minister Vidot said the Family Hospital was built for use as a hospital with inpatient and outpatient facilities. She noted that given the prenatal service from the English River clinic and the specialised gynaecologist and infertility services that have also been transferred to the hospital, apart from the two above mentioned services, there is no space to accommodate the functions and demands of community health services.
Answering a question by the elected member for Beau Vallon, John Hoareau, on how many health centres across the country are offering services beyond 4pm, Minister Vidot stated that only the Anse Boileau and Anse Royale health centres are offering health services on a 24-hour basis while the English River health centre opens until 8pm.
She added that the ministry is looking as from next month to further the opening hours at the English River clinic until 10pm to assist with non-emergency cases.
She further added that it is doing a case study to see if there is the need for other health centres to remain open until late so as to ease pressure on the casualty unit.
Given the large population in the Anse Etoile district, elected member for Anse Etoile, Hon. Georges Romain, wanted to know the criteria used by the ministry to allocate a health centre in a district. Answering the question, Minister Vidot said the health centres now in the districts had been there for many years based on the population in those districts at the time.
She stated that while it is true over the years that some districts without a health centre have seen a rise in population, to offer such facility in those districts depends on many factors among which include appropriate sites, manpower and funding among others.
She added that while the ministry is looking to develop its primary health care in the community what matters is for the population to access and to make maximum use of service at any of the health centres available.
She stated though that the ministry will look into offering some sort of health facilities in larger districts without a health centre, such as in the Anse Etoile district, rather than building a centre as an immediate solution. The ministry has 16 health centres across the country among which 6 are regional health centres.
With regard to using the Republic of Sri Lanka as a destination to send patients for treatment given that Air Seychelles has resumed flights to that country, Minister Vidot said it was great news for the ministry to learn that our national airline had resumed its flights over there but the ministry has not sent any patients over there to date as they are still awaiting the quotation and treatment plan from the two hospitals they have been working with in the past.
She added that the ministry is also looking to settle a debt owed to the two hospitals.
She added that patients are sent on treatment to various other countries.
The last question for Minister Vidot was a without notice question by the proportionate member for United Seychelles, Hon. Wallace Cosgrow, who questioned about the antibiotics used in the animal feed imported by the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) and its effect on human lives.
Minister Vidot said that antibiotics is a growth hormone used in certain countries in the production of animal feed. She noted that while the ministry is geared towards providing a high health standard and to protect the population against disease, for the time being it has no information regarding antibiotics in the imported animal feed.
She said that the ministry will discuss with the Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment on the matter before measures, if it is true that antibiotics are present in the animal feed, are taken to protect the health of our population against antimicrobial.
She added that the letter with the allegation from a supplier that is circulating on social media have not reached the ministry officially with facts for the ministry to take necessary measures.