Posts Tagged ‘neurosurgeon’

What Country Has a National Healthcare Plan? Rwanda, For One

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Rwanda’s national healthcare plan covers 92 percent of its citizens at just $2 per year.  Although the African nation of Rwanda ranks as one of the world’s poorest, it does have something that the United States lacks – a national health insurance program.  Started in 1999, the program covers 92 percent of Rwandans and carries a premium of just $2 per year. Even though Rwanda’s healthcare facilities may be primitive by American standards, the fact remains that more of its citizens are insured than in the United States.

While the most common causes of death in Rwanda remain diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition and infected cuts, community health centers typically stock all the drugs that the World Health Organization recommends as essential.  They tend to be generic copies of name-brand medicines.  These centers usually have laboratories where patients can have routine blood and urine tests, as well as tuberculosis and malaria screenings.

Since the national health plan – called health mutuals – was introduced, the average life expectancy has climbed from 48 to 52, despite Rwanda’s ongoing AIDS epidemic.  Deaths from malaria and childbirth have fallen significantly, according to Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, permanent secretary of Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.  Tests and treatments routinely performed in American hospitals such as MRIs and dialysis are not available, and patients may have to wait weeks for general surgery.  Fortunate patients who require advanced surgery can get free treatment from physicians visiting from the United States, Cuba, Australia and elsewhere.  On rare occasions, the Health Ministry will pay for a patient to be treated in Kenya, South Africa or India.

A recent study published in Tropical Medicine & International Health found that total healthcare spending in Rwanda totals approximately $307 million annually.  Given that Rwanda’s population is just over 10.7 million, total healthcare spending averages $28.60 per person a year.  Co-pays, even though low by American standards, can be unaffordable for a national populated largely by subsistence farmers whose primary currency is barter.

Rural Family Practice Physician Chosen as Surgeon General

Friday, July 24th, 2009

President Obama has chosen a little-known family practice physician who runs a small clinic in a rural community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast as his Surgeon General of the United States.  She is Dr. Regina Benjamin,  who has spent her career tending to the healthcare needs of the poor.  According to Obama, “When people couldn’t pay, she didn’t charge them.  When the clinic wasn’t making money, she didn’t take a salary for herself.”artbenjaminnominationgi

Dr. Benjamin has committed herself to fighting the preventable illnesses that prematurely took the lives of both her parents, as well as her brother and sole sibling.  According to Dr. Benjamin, “I cannot change my family’s past, but I can be a voice to improve our nation’s healthcare for the future.”

Dr. Benjamin’s medical education was paid for by the National Health Service Corps, a federal program where students agree to pay back by working in areas that lack physicians for a specified time.  To honor that obligation, she founded the not-for-profit Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in 1990 in the fishing village of Bayou La Batre, AL.  She remains the practice’s CEO.

The clinic, which was heavily damaged by Hurricanes Georges and Katrina, burned to the ground several years ago.  Every time, Dr. Benjamin rebuilt, even if it meant mortgaging her house or maxing out her credit cards.  Despite the setbacks, Dr. Benjamin remains dedicated to providing quality healthcare to the village’s 2,500 residents.

Benjamin is a stark contrast to Obama’s first nominee for Surgeon General – Sanjay Gupta, a glamorous TV personality and globe-trotting neurosurgeon who raised the hackles of Senators and withdrew his nomination.

The Surgeon General post, which is used primarily as a bully pulpit on healthcare initiatives, requires Senate confirmation.