On Tuesday the non-novernment organisation (NGO), Twaweza, released findings of a new study, ‘Sauti ya wanainchi’ (voices of the people), which revealed that 60 per cent of Ugandans who visit public health facilities do not access medicines or get appropriate care from medical workers.
The survey, which was conducted between August and September, revealed other challenges, including overcrowding, with patients sleeping on floors of some of the public health facilities. The report was to say the least an indictment of Uganda’s public health system, but its findings are not really.
While government has over the years increased funding for the health sector from a paltry 3 per cent of the national Budget in 1987 to about 9 per cent in recent years, spruced up infrastructure in many of the hospitals across the country and abolished cost sharing in hospitals by scrapping user fees in 2001, and in so doing, allowed the poorer sections of the Ugandan populace to gain increased access to public health facilities, issues around staff remuneration and welfare, drug shortages, lack of equipment, and under staffing have never been given the kind of attention they deserve.
If figures from the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) are anything to go by, more than 65 per cent of hospitals lack drugs and supplies for emergency care, which has been a major cause of preventable and unnecessary deaths.
How would Ugandans have accessed vital drugs in those facilities when government is only delivering 35 per cent of the drugs and sundries that it should be delivering?
At the same time, statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that only 40,375 out of the approved 58,000 posts in health facilities in rural Uganda, where most of the population lives, have never been filled.
The deficit is made worse by the fact that the doctor to patient ratio stands at 1:24,000, far higher than the World Health Organisation’s recommended ratio of 1:1,000.
The World Bank lists Uganda as one of the world’s 49 low income economies, which cannot meet the minimum threshold of 23 medical doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people. With such ratios, it would not be possible for patients not to feel neglected by the few overwhelmed medical workers.
The defeatists in government would want us to believe that the challenges in the health sector cannot be fixed. We beg to differ.
The NRM party, in its 2016 manifesto, promised to, among other things introduce a Universal Health Insurance Scheme. It has worked for Rwanda. It can work for us. Let us not let the opportunity pass us by.
The NRM, in its 2016 manifesto, promised to, among other things introduce a Universal Health Insurance Scheme.