Safari camps’ telemedicine makes council sick

ATTORNEY: Lesego Phoi

Over the phone consultations and drug prescriptions are posing ethical dilemmas in some safari camps within the Okavango Delta.

Many of these hard-to-reach areas have reportedly opted to cut the cost of flying their staff members to and from Maun for medical care.

Instead they use camp managers to facilitate telephonic medical consultations.

- Advertisement -

The North West District Council are adamant this is against the law.

An assessment carried out by the council last month unearthed what they regard as malpractice and violation of employee’s rights to confidentiality and proper medical consultation.

Bonjanala councillor, Luke Motlaleselelo, who led the delegation into the Delta, told Okavango Voice the investigations confirmed their suspicions.

“We discovered that indeed telephonic consultation within the camps were being done between managers and medical practitioners in Maun. In some cases, a manager would give a staff member a phone to talk to the doctor during such a consultation. In this way, medical confidentiality of staff within the camps is compromised due to prescription passed on to non professionals.”

According to Motlaleselelo, the council discovered that managers with hardly any medical training were playing the role of pharmacists and were often directed over the phone by a doctor in Maun on what medicine to dispense to patients.

“Some of the medicine found in the camps is not allowed by law to be in the hands of non-medical practitioners. Some of the medications had even gone past their due dates. There is malpractice in handling of drugs and non-drugs as per the drugs and related substances Act of 2013. Employees are exposed to severe psychosocial circumstances.”

- Advertisement -

The ten-man delegation included four councillors, three medical doctors, an occupational health officer and a technical team from the administration department.

“Doctors were not happy due to the serious abuse of antibiotics in the camps. There is a doctor who is making money just sitting in Maun and doing this telemedicine and instructing first aiders to perform nurse and pharmacist duties,” added Motlaleselelo.

Recommendations were made at the close of the council, which was dissolved last Friday (20 September), that the Ministry of Health and Wellness must undertake thorough investigations on the issue.

The matter came to a head following a motion tabled by Motlaleselelo two years ago.

“I have worked in the safaris before and I understand their sufferings. I am happy that I have done what I needed to do and what remains is for the powers that be to implement. Our wish is for the central government to adopt the occupational health act,” concluded the councillor.

- Advertisement -

Meanwhile, local attorney Lesego Phoi agrees with the council that the safari camps are acting unlawfully.

“It is very unethical and unconstitutional. They are violating their employees’ confidentiality and their right to proper medical care. Why would a manager dispense drugs when they are not medical practitioners?”

Leave a comment