Timor-Leste lacks comprehensive medical care. 1000 physicians returned from Cuba where they received a basic medical education. Today they work all over the country and are enrolled in a nationwide training program. However, there is still a lack of well-trained medical staff from technical assistants, nurses to physicians. An injury like a small cut can become a major problem for patients especially in the more remote areas. Childrens’ and adults’ heart diseases are high on the agenda, due to under- and malnutrition. Dengue and malaria are especially widespread but also tuberculosis can be found. Timor is missing appropriate diagnostic capabilities and experts. The quality of the hospitals is poor and for the remote living people only accessible with great difficulties.
Timor-Leste needs healthy people to build up their nation again. At the moment various factors ranging from malnutrition, missing sanitation to poor healthcare hamper the development. The Timor Foundation develops concepts with the goal to accelerate the improvement of the health services through the collaboration with experienced partners (fe RACS, ETEP, Fred Hollows among others) that provides know-how, access to funding and expertise. more...
Major problems of the health care system are prevalent in the barely tapped regions where many different languages (dialects) are spoken creating barriers to communication, as well as a lack of well-trained medical staff and equipment. The healthcare in Timor-Leste is subsidized by the government and is available to all citizens regardless of their socio-economic status. However, people living in underserved, rural, and remote areas (up to 75% of the population) have more difficult access to health care as well as clean water, safe housing, and efficient transportation.
In Dili, the capital with 300,000 inhabitants, there are a few institutions where people can obtain basic medical support. For more complex cases patients must seek assistance elsewhere. This option is reserved for those few who can afford it. In rare instances, patient care is provided by so called family offices, formed by the foreign medical professionals or in private clinics in Timor-Leste.
There is now complete medical education available in Timor-Leste some of it in collaboration with Cuba or Indonesia. The first generation of upcoming physicians trained in Cuba (around 1000) returned in spring of 2013. However, the Cuban medical training is poor in clinical on-patient training. This becomes soon very evident as many of them are obliged to assume charge of a designated health post in the country’s rural areas.
Although we believe that the further development of the country would require a multifaceted approach aimed at improving infrastructure development, creation of adequate employment opportunities and providing good quality education, we would like to put special emphasis on healthcare, though the government has made strides in improving public health over the last several years.
Based on our initial finding, we believe that further developments in the healthcare system should focus on the following two main pillars: medical education including advanced training and good facilities as in good and well maintained infrastructure.
The first pillar concerns the need to train physicians. We believe that initiating a full-time medical program at the University in Timor-Leste with the possibility of attracting students from abroad would be instrumental in this respect. Training the medical students to be rational health care providers and judicious clinicians is one of the biggest challenges for any undergraduate medical education system.
The second pillar entails a strong need of hygienic and modern facilities where patients can be treated on inpatient and ambulatory basis. Lack of facilities and equipment to work with are issues to contend with. Timor-Leste’s health system should be strengthened with both human and material resources to make them functioning and functional. Indeed, the availability of skilled health providers (particularly midwives, nurses, doctors and obstetricians) is critical in assuring good quality health care delivery.
In conclusion, the healthcare problems in Timor-Leste result from a combination of factors. There is therefore an urgent need for a concerted group effort in the provision of qualitative healthcare and towards putting in place workable structures, such as adequate health care facilities to alleviate these problems. In the long term, it is the combination of education, improved socioeconomic standard of the people, empowerment and education of youth, career opportunities and full access to health information and services that will have the necessary impact on health. In addition, developed countries should provide necessary technological and financial assistance to the developing countries, conduct more research on public health problems of developing countries and improve their public health service capacity.
We believe that the government of Timor-Leste would strongly profit from collaborating with an experienced organization (public private partnership) that could provide necessary know-how, access to funding and expertise to build solid healthcare platform to serve the country’s current needs as well as its future generations.