The President of the National Medical Board, Doctor Nilton da Silva do Carmo, at the National Hospital Guido Valadares (HNGV), in Dili, said the role of board is to facilitate patients’ referrals overseas for diagnosis or specialized treatment based on urgency and need.
He said the National Medical Board falls under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Health.
He said the board has five (5) members consisting of three (3) effective members, with two (2) specialist substitute members. The members include one specialist from the in-patient unit, one ophthalmologist, one dermatologist, one orthopedic specialists, andone obstetrician.
“Our role is to facilitate, based on the competence and knowledge that we have acquired so far,” he said in his office, Bidau, Dili.
He explained that the decision for patient transfer needs to be done at the National Hospital, and that the initial diagnosis is made by the general practitioners, with second opinion from the specialists using the existing resources of the hospital. If a specialist believes the patient needs to be transferred overseas, then the patients’ medical records are presented to the National Medical Board where a decision to transfer the patients overseas or not is made collectively by the board.
He added mostly the board considers the age of the patient, the severity of the illness and the likely outcome after the patient is transferred. A patient also needs to be a Timorese citizen receiving treatment at the national hospital HNGV.
He added previously patients would also be referred overseas if a diagnosis was not possible at the national hospital but that this has now stopped due to lack of funds.
“We base our selection on the merits of the medical case without looking at the personal background of the patient,” he said.
He said most of the patients transferred suffer from kidney disorders and need blood transfusions, also include cancer patients in need of chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment, and also patients suffering from heart disease and other diseases where treatment is not available in Timor-Leste.
From January to July 2018, a total of 66 patients were transferred to overseas hospitals, with 35 patients going Sanglah-Bali hospital, another 23 patients to Siloam Hospital, in Indonesia, and 8 patients transferred to the Malaysia hospital.
The Vice Minister of Health for Strategic Development, Bonifacio Maukoli dos Reis said the government is committed to develop the infrastructure and human resources, and advance the capacity of the national hospital to be able to provide treatment to patients in Timor-Leste.
He confirmed that even though some treatments can be dispensed at HNGV, that presently some treatments are only available at overseas hospitals due to the lack of facilities and conditions at the national hospital.
“Going forward we want to buy more equipment for oncology, so we will look at the additional budget for this year to buy the equipment,” he said.
The National Parliament has just recently approved the proposed additional budget of $600,000 for the purchase of blood transfusion machines and other medical equipment, to reduce the number of patients requiring transferal overseas.