Cameroon Government Prioritizes CRTV over Hospitals

 

The importance of any institution to the government can be directly deduced from her efforts in generating income and ensuring sustainability for that institution.  While the health sector continues to languish in gross under funding that results in numerous maternal and child deaths, short life expectancy, poor quality of care, etc., CRTV enjoys a generous, comfortable and ever increasing sustainable income from the Cameroonian taxpayers known as Audiovisual Royalty tax.  It should be noted that every salaried worker in Cameroon pays a progressive tax to the government that is channeled into the accounts of CRTV (State owned Audiovisual corporation) monthly. It raises a legitimate question why the government would choose to fund services that are not necessarily demanded and consumed by most Cameroonian and obviously not the most important in our context.

Only 48% of Cameroonians have access to electricity that is a pre-requisite to owning and using audiovisual devices. This implies that, at best, only 48% of Cameroonians can benefit from the services provided by CRTV. Why then levy a tax on persons who do not have even the capacity to access the services being directly sponsored by this tax levy? Most Cameroonians would agree that they are more worried about sponsoring their healthcare in time of sickness than sustaining a state media that provides information that is not accessible to most Cameroonians.

With certainty, every Cameroonian at some point in his/her lifetime would require health services,but the same cannot be said about the services offered by CRTV. Most Cameroonians are either denied care or provided substandard care because of their inability to pay at the time care is needed. Several Cameroonians, just like Monique Koumate, have been allowed to die unattended to or neglected at hospitals around the country because of the huge burden of out of pocket payments at the time care. Also, many Cameroonians have been rendered bankrupt by the huge cost of care simply because there is no social protection in place. It would have been very logical and important for the government to fund a universally demanded and consumed good such as health care over a state sponsored media that has no added value to a majority of Cameroonians.

Though finances from the Audiovisual Royalty Taxalone cannot fully cover the cost of universal health coverage in Cameroon, it will for sure be a significant source in raising revenues towards this. This revenue can be complemented by other sources such as a mandatory health tax on goods and services whose consumption is deleterious to health such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sugared drinks, etc. Unfortunately, the lack of political will and policies geared towards the provision of universal healthcare services to Cameroonians is the greatest drawback in this processand not the impossibility of establishing and sustaining such a system.

Ichallenge the government to stop collecting taxes that benefit less than 50% of the Cameroonian population and redirect these finances towards subsidizing healthcare for every Cameroonian. This will go a long way to improving the health profile of our beloved Nation.

 

By Chobufo Ditah, MD MPH

Chief Medical Officer-CMA Njinikom

 

Dr. Chobufo Ditah, is a seasoned Public Health Specialist with degrees from the prestigious Faculties of Medicine, University of Yaoundé I-Cameroon (MD), and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (MPH). He is currently the Chief Medical Officer at CMA-Njinikom. Despite the challenges faced by the health sector in Cameroon, Dr. Chobufo is committed to providing the highest quality of care to Cameroonians with the limited resources, placing special emphasis on mass prevention. He has gained extensive experience working in several African Countries (South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad) executing missions with Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). He has a huge exposure to and mastery of health systems around the globe including several African Countries, China, USA and Israel. He looks forward to designing a health system that works in Cameroon by piecing together the best concepts from these different systems.  He is also passionate about universal health coverage and having seen his clients suffer the direct consequences of out of pocket payment for health services, he’s committed to the fight for universal healthcare coverage for all Cameroonians. He strongly holds that the major barrier to attaining universal health care coverage in Cameroon is the lack of political will and strong government policies as and not the lack of finances as many Cameroonians have been erroneously led to believe.

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