Improve access to treatment first
Posted Saturday, September 28 2013 at 01:00
Mere provision of physical structures, however magnificent they might be, without a corresponding plan to ease or improve access to treatment will count for nothing.
Exciting news in the health sector has been announced. On Wednesday, September 25, the Director General of Health Services Dr Jane Aceng announced that the government will renovate dilapidated public hospitals and health centres across the country and in some cases construct new ones. The Director General said the government will implement this plan using funding from the National Budget and international agencies.
This grand plan covers renovation and expansion of the national referral hospital at Mulago, construction of new hospitals around Kampala to decongest Mulago, some regional referral hospitals and 16 government hospitals in various districts in the country. Also, 47 health centres under the Uganda Health Systems Strengthening Project will be renovated. The whole programme will consume about Shs1 trillion.
Given the country’s ailing healthcare situation, this is great news. However, there have been similar expensive programmes in the past which have not translated into real improvement in healthcare delivery. That’s why this latest thinking does not necessarily promise improved healthcare primarily because it does not mention the plan to provide the critical things such as drugs, medical equipment, narrowing staff-patient ratios, staff motivation and retention, and other basic requirements that are critical.
We have well-painted health centres at every sub-county and parish/village, but the healthcare services have remained as pathetic as before. Pregnant mothers are still dying during child birth in these shining facilities just because of lack of basic things including gloves for the medical staff. Mere provision of physical structures, however magnificent they might be, without a corresponding plan to ease or improve access to treatment will count for nothing.
Infrastructure is important for improvement of a country’s health care system, but treatment is the most critical. Thus, whereas there is the plan to increase infrastructural capacity in the health sector, the government should also announce a supplementary plan to provide better treatment to the people, and start the much anticipated and talked about health insurance scheme. Short of that, this Ministry of Health plan sounds like good news that brings little or nothing to its people.