Prevention key in healthcare delivery
Posted Monday, November 4 2013 at 02:00
Many times, government officials, politicians and patients who visit hospitals and other health centres of all levels have raised the issue of inputs in health centres being less than the demand. Medicines that are brought to health centres are not enough, health workers are not enough, there is not enough fuel in ambulances for referrals, the beds are not enough!
From the above observation, it is clear that we all seem to be obsessed with supply side in the equation of healthcare services. At National Medical Stores, we have improved the process that delivers services countrywide, but people still say medicines supplied are not enough!
I would, therefore, like to contribute to the national debate on the issue of sufficiency to our national healthcare system; should it be only the supply side or we should start looking at the demand side, where patients come from?
All the available statistics from the government and other stakeholders indicate that 75 per cent of the illnesses recorded by health facilities are preventable, meaning many of the people who present themselves to hospitals and health centres need not to be there in the first place. The conditions that these 75 per cent present could have been prevented either by individuals (sleeping under a mosquito net, washing hands, eating well, exercising, using condoms or abstaining from sex). The conditions could have also been prevented by communities by mobilising against domestic violence, ensuring adequate latrine coverage, etc.
The issue, therefore, is why we don’t pay attention to preventive measures. Is it because communities have not been educated on prevention? Is it a case of negligence on our part?
Why is it that all efforts are focused on the right to get treatment and not the obligation to prevent some of these diseases? When patients present themselves at health centres and after treatment has been given, health workers need to ask them why such conditions could not be prevented. Why should the government continue to meet costs of outright negligence of individuals and communities?
It is not too late to change the way we handle our health. We should take responsibility and agree to change strategy for the good of our country. It is the only way we can sustain the 25 per cent of Ugandans who genuinely need treatment and ensure that they will get adequate supply of medicines and have enough health workers attending to them. Only then will increased allocation to the health sector translate into better service delivery.
I am concerned that Ugandans are taking too much medicine - even for preventable conditions - and this can be a recipe for more deadly health complications, which as a country, we may not have capacity to address. Both public and private healthcare systems need to focus on emphasising prevention.
In conclusion, my view is that by concentrating on prevention, we will find a sustainable solution for better healthcare for all Ugandans.
National Medical Stores