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Find Shs260b for health or we block budget, say MPs

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By Yasiin Mugerwa

Posted  Friday, September 14   2012 at  01:00
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Hospitals in the country are on the brink of collapse and more patients will die of neglect, unless the government finds Shs260 billion to resuscitate what MPs yesterday called a “dead” healthcare system in the country.

Debate over the state of healthcare took centre stage yesterday as Parliament began discussion on the 2012/13 budget amid disagreements with the Executive over budget cuts to raise Shs260b needed to recruit and motivate health workers.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi rejected a committee proposal to cut Shs15 billion from the defence budget and divert it to the health sector. He also opposed a plan to cut Shs3 billion from the Electoral Commission and Uganda Bureau of Statistics, arguing that the two agencies are statutory institutions with constitutional duties.

Responding to the Prime Minister, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo said: Why is the Prime Minister being insensitive to Ugandans who are dying in poorly facilitated hospitals and health facilities?”

Kyaddondo East MP Ibrahim Ssemuju said State House was spending Shs11 billion on in-land travels with over 100 presidential assistants and other senior advisers yet there are no doctors in some districts.

To illustrate how grim the situation is, Mr Peter Keyo, the MP for Bukooli Islands, said in his constituency health facilities are manned by secondary school students and midwives. MPs heard that in some districts like Kyoga there are no doctors and that many people continue to die.

Parliament heard that in Abim District, one doctor attends to 98,000 patients and there are only two doctors in Moroto District. The ratio for dentists in the country is one per 168 patients and in various government referral hospitals, mattresses are rotting and there are no medical workers.

“Malaria is killing 320 Ugandans every day yet the government cannot find the Shs260 billion to overhaul the health sector,” said Gerald Karuhanga (Youth Western).
Earlier, Mr Mbabazi told the House that the government had failed to agree with the Budget Committee on the proposed budget cuts to raise money for the health sector. The Budget Committee raised only Shs39.2billion out of Shs260 billion.

“Government is conscious of the problems in the health sector but the resource envelope is still limited,” Mr Mbabazi said, requesting that he comes back to the House with a harmonized position but without any success.

The Budget Committee Chairperson, Mr Tim Lwanga, told the House that part of the Shs260 billion was needed to retain health workers currently on the payroll (58 per cent staff establishment) by enhancing their salary by 50 per cent. This would require Shs121 billion.

An additional 8 per cent (6,905 health workers) is needed to bring staff establishment to 66 per cent, requiring an additional Shs61billion. To motivate health workers on duty, Parliament is proposing Shs78 billion as duty allowances.

ymugerwa@ug.nationmedia.com