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Will health Budget address country’s ‘ailing’ sector?

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By EVELYN LIRRI

Posted  Friday, June 14  2013 at  01:00
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Finance minister, Ms Maria Kiwanuka yesterday read the 2013/14 national Budget, outlining recruitment of health workers, improving infrastructure and eradicating malaria as key priorities for the health sector.

Ms Kiwanuka also said government’s long standing proposal to introduce a national Health Insurance Scheme will be re-considered in the new financial year, a move that health experts have welcomed.
Dr Margaret Mungherera, the president of the Uganda Medical Association, said a health insurance scheme will help address some of the funding challenges of the health sector.

“Unless the issue of health financing is addressed through an insurance scheme, healthcare will continue to be too expensive for majority of Ugandans who are already paying heft sums of money out of pocket,” Dr Mungherera said.

According to Ms Kiwanuka, equipping health facilities such as the Uganda Heart Institute, the Uganda Cancer Institute and Uganda Blood Transfusion Services, among others, and partnering with the private sector to establish facilities for highly specialised treatment will also take up a great share of the health sector budget.

Projections from the budget framework paper show that the health sector will receive an estimated Shs930.5 billion---representing 8 per cent of the national cake.

The Global Fund to fight HIV/Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis is funding the procurement and distribution of about 21 million mosquito nets to achieve universal coverage of long lasting insecticide treated nets.

Among the achievements, she explained that another 6,172 health workers have been recruited and the salaries of medical officers at the health centre IV level had been increased to Shs2.5 million per month.

This, she said, was in line with the health sector budget priority for the current financial year whose main focus is strengthening health systems, equipping and stocking health facilities with essential medicines and health supplies, expanding disease prevention cover and ensuring safety of pregnant and lactating mothers.

But Dr Mungherera said allocating only eight per cent of the total budget to the health was a clear indication that health is still not considered a development priority in Uganda.

“This is not acceptable because you cannot develop unless you have a healthy population. The minimum the health sector should be given is 12 per cent of the total budget,” she explained.

elirri@ug.nationmedia.com