Mauritius, an African island nation in the Indian Ocean, had been an agrarian society with high unemployment rates and low per capita GDP for much of its history as an independent nation. However, in recent years, the country has shifted to having a diversified economy, high employment rates and higher life expectancy. Mauritius reached a per capita GDP of around $11,000 in 2018, and in 2020, achieved an all-time-high employment rate of 93.63%. In an April 2020 Poverty and Equity Brief, the World Bank highlights that Mauritius has eradicated extreme poverty. Along with these milestones, health care in Mauritius has also shown tremendous progress as the main cause of mortality shifted from infectious diseases to degenerative diseases, signaling the advancement of health care technology and policies.
5 Facts About Health Care in Mauritius
- Free Public Health Care. Public health care in Mauritius is free for its residents. In 2017, public health institutions provided for around 73% of the health requirements of the population while private institutions addressed 27% of these needs. The number of physicians per 1,000 people has also increased from 1.2 in 2010 to 2.5 in 2018. Additionally, as of 2021, Mauritius’ health care infrastructure consists of “five major regional public hospitals, four specialized public hospitals, two public district hospitals, two cardiac centers, 19 private clinics and hospitals and 30 medical laboratories.”
- The Health Care System Shifts to Develop High-Value Activities. Mauritius is promoting an increase in medical tourism, seeking to reign in more profit for its health industry. In fact, “in 2017, Mauritius attracted more than 11,500 foreign patients for treatment” in cosmetic surgery, orthopedics, fertility treatment and other specialized areas. As more investment pours into the sector, advancements in infrastructure can potentially attract more foreign patients.
- Health Care is One of the Government’s Main Priorities. Health care in Mauritius is Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth’s main priority as he looks to improve the health care system by further addressing non-communicable diseases. Mauritius’ minister of finance, Renganaden Padayachy, whose role is to manage economic activities, is also prioritizing health care in Mauritius by expanding the public health care budget. In 2019-2020, 9.5% of the total budget went to the public health sector, marking a 7.4% increase from the previous year.
- Government Commitment in Addressing Health Care Challenges. One of the main challenges health care in Mauritius faces is ineffective distribution and mix of human resources in terms of numbers and skillsets of health workers. In response, the government recruited 538 medical and non-medical personnel in 2020 to receive training on primary health care services, such as immunization programs. Another challenge is Mauritius’ reliance on a paper-based administration form that proved to be inefficient. In January 2021, Mauritius launched an e-health project “to modernize the actual health care system and to make a transition to a technologically-based medical service.”
- Advancements in Medical Equipment. Mauritius is promoting the development of high-tech medical tools in the industry. In 2020, Mauritius imported around $30.5 million worth of medical equipment and exported $32 million of medical equipment. In 2021, Mauritius had six medical device manufacturers providing job opportunities to about 600 people.
At the onset of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) placed Mauritius among the African nations at significant “risk of a public health disaster” due to its dense population, a high proportion of elderly citizens and high rate of chronic illnesses. However, Mauritius’ progress and commitment to protecting the health and wellness of its citizens proved to be key in combating COVID-19 as Mauritius emerged as one of the few coronavirus-free places on Earth. Mauritius avoided WHO’s prediction by immediately implementing public health safety measures such as lockdowns, mass testing and contact tracing.
With continued progress in the health care arena, Mauritius stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration to post-colonial countries that progress is possible.
– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Wikimedia Commons