Wednesday November 5 2014

Health ministry uses SMS to fight quacks

By PAUL TAJUBA

Kampala. The Ministry of Health has started using an SMS mobile phone-based technology to identify and prosecute quack medical workers.
Mr Ismail Wadembere, the information manager of Intra Health, a non-government organisation working with the Ministry of Health, yesterday said under the new system, locals report suspected quack health workers through SMS.
He said under the system, one can send a name of a health worker to 8198 to verify whether that person is a qualified health worker or not.
“The information you enter is kept by the ministry and we check into our database to know where the SMS is coming from and whether that person is a health worker and if not, then we mobilise and arrest that person,” he said.
Mr Wadembere made the revelations at a function organised by global technology company, ThoughtWorks, in Kampala yesterday.
He said, without giving figures, that many quacks have been arrested through this system.
“Currently, when a health worker is undergoing training his or her records are captured in the ministry database and when they graduate, their records are transferred to the four different medical councils. You can no longer go to Nasser Road and get a certificate,” Mr Wadembere said.
Dr Eddie Mukooyo, an assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Health, said the ministry is now planning to train all health workers and jointly work with IT specialists such as ThoughtWorks to ensure the smooth running of the systems.
“In future, you will not need to go to Mulago [hospital] to benefit from the services of consultants as there will be tele consultation. A doctor in a rural area can send images to Mulago saving them from the long distances and money. Progressively, this will improve the working conditions of rural medical workers and patients,” Dr Mukooyo said.
He added that the ministry is piloting a Mother Reminder System in northern Uganda that seeks to prompt mothers to go for antenatal care, and know when they will give birth.

ptajuba@ug.nationmedia.com

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