In 27 years, government should have fixed the healthcare system
Posted Friday, January 25 2013 at 02:00
These foreign hospitals to which our government officials run were built through sacrifice.
Walking in close proximity to the now dilapidated Abim hospital two years ago, an old woman narrated to me how they used to enjoy excellent service there. According to her, the then celebrated hospital was well-equipped with drugs and powerful machines; a very sufficient water pipe was connected from Nyemo spring to the hospital and there was a well functioning sewerage system, a very good maternity service where they had water heaters for bathing, a very comfortable staff quarters with electricity among other components. Those were the days I am told government officials would obtain medical service in the same hospitals with their other citizens.
Today, Abim hospital among others is not far from a museum. I have had opportunity to visit other hospitals in the country and discovered that they are in the same state as ours in Abim.
While the citizens of Uganda endure poor medical services, government ministers are making air flights to foreign countries for medical service. Since I was a very little child I have never heard of a government official from a foreign country coming for medical attention to Uganda neither have I heard of any foreign minister who died in a Ugandan hospital.
These foreign hospitals to which our government officials run were built through sacrifice. Their governments had to put aside selfish interests, their tribal sentiments and their other egotistical concerns to set up such attractive health institutions for their citizens considering that their health would inevitably lead to the wealth of their countries.
There is, therefore, no doubt that as Ugandan ministers go out to seek better medical attention, they contribute incalculably to the development of such countries in form of transport costs, medical bills, lodges and hotels among other expenses. All these costs are met at the expense of the Ugandan taxpayers, most of whom are unable to fly out for better medical treatment.
While it is important to appreciate some of the government’s auxiliary contributions made to the health sector, it is weird that after 27 years in power a government that had promised fundamental change has not managed to build an internationally attractive hospital.
Corruption that has rocked Uganda for 27 years has not spared the health sector at any rate. While we spend heavily for foreign medical service, the government should realize the importance of a healthy citizenry and that health and development are synonymous. By this time in the 21st century we need to have hospitals that meet global standards so as to reduce the costs incurred in seeking health services from abroad. We should be ashamed when we see government officials boarding planes to seek medication from foreign countries and yet we have had 27 uninterrupted years of nation building save for northern Uganda which experienced instability.
Health infrastructure needs to be improved and be well stocked with equipment and drugs.
Health workers need to be well paid so as to reduce brain drain since it is evident that most of our health workers are trained only to lose them to foreign countries where it is more lucrative to be a doctor or nurse.
Government must appreciate that if the power they hold was given to them by the people, and that they run the country on people’s behalf, then they need to invest hugely in their health.
That is when we can be sure that the government cares for the citizens. If government fails to give singular attention to our health sector, we shall continue to spend heavily to boost the development of other countries where our government ministers obtain outstanding health services.
Mr Okello is an independent researcher.