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Cablegate: Eritrea to Nationalize Medical Clinics

DE RUEHAE #0394 3161319
R 121319Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1.(SBU) Several private medical clinics in Asmara received written
notification November 2 and 3 from the Ministry of Health that their
practices will face closure in the immediate future. The
notification states:

"On different occasions, the Ministry of Health has made notice that
all private clinics will be closed, and the issuance of new licenses
discontinued. Accordingly, it is decided that your private clinic
will be closed very shortly, and thus you are hereby informed to
make necessary preparations. We will inform you in the near future
of the exact closing date. Victory to the Masses! Signed Dr.
Tesfay Solomon, Director of Services and Qualifications"

2. (SBU) According to members of the local medical community, the
Government of Eritreaattempted a similar "nationalization" of
medical clinics in 2005; however, most clinics remained in operation
with no change to their practices or licensing. One local health
practitioner told emboff that most health clinics in Asmara are
already in "semi-government" status with Ministry regulation of
their services, and that most clinics will be permitted to reopen
only under the auspices of a government-run hospital.

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3. (SBU) A doctor in Asmara makes between 400 and 600 nakfa
($27-$40) each month under national service wages. Via private
clinics, a doctor may make that much money from a single visit.
Operating a private clinic in addition to mandatory national service
is how most doctors survive on the less than sufficient government
wages. Without private practices, as one Eritrean health
professional told emboff, doctors would be largely unmotivated to
continue the health profession in Eritrea.

3. (SBU) Comment: Nationalization of private clinics would only
further paralyze an already weak medical system. The private
clinics which offer specialized services such as x-ray technology
and dentistry - which also have invested in their own equipment,
supplies, and medications - are most at risk. The effect will not
only impair the ability of Eritreans to seek medical care, but could
also limit the ability of embassy employees to seek basic treatment
options locally.


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