Will the touch of woman heal Uganda's sick health sector?

Sunday May 29 2011

Joyce Dradidi Ondoa

Joyce Dradidi Ondoa 

By Tabu Butagira

This Sunday morning, she will take onto the pulpit, as she has done in the past year, preaching to Christians at Lifeline Ministry’s Mbuya-Kinawataka church, a Kampala suburb.

Except Pastor Christine Joyce Dradidi Ondoa, a consultant pediatrician, will be wearing not only the robe of spiritual nourishment but also health shepherding.

The Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital Executive Director is the Minister of Health-designate although her name was misspelt on the Cabinet list State House made public on Friday.

Sunday Monitor caught up with Dr Ondoa over lunch at Hotel Africana, next to Uganda Management Institute where she is, in a drastic career shift, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Management. She expects to complete the graduate programme in August this year.

Asked if she expected to be named a minister, the Mount St. Mary’s Namagunga and Moyo SS alumna, said: “Yes and no”.

“Yes because I knew that I was always meant for good things and knew that God was preparing me for a big task. But I did not know that it was going to come this soon and at this time.”
Already it has. President Museveni fished Dr Ondoa from the non-political crop of West Nile, making her the only other full minister from the region beside Gen. Moses Ali, appointed Third Deputy Premier.

Dr Ondoa, who holds a Master’s Degree in Pediatrics and Child Health from Makerere University, cut her professional niche as a public health expert at Arua Regional Hospital, where she worked as a Consultant for nine years (200-2009), covering the West Nile region.

New minister Christine Joyce Dradidi Ondoa, a pastor, says she is a medic cut from God’s cloak

This assignment, she said, exposed her to various health sector stakeholders both within government and in the donor community.

“My appointment may be was because I am a woman of integrity, honesty and transparency and have fear of the Lord,” she said.

“I also like working with everyone from top to bottom because together everyone can achieve more. Coming together is the beginning; staying together is progress”

After all, team work brought her immense success in turning around Jinja Referral Hospital where she served as the Medical Superintendent after the sojourn in Arua.

Sometime in February last year, a truck carrying about 50 UPDF soldiers crashed at night and the fractured and bleeding army men and women were rushed to Jinja Hospital.

And Dr Ondoa received the distress call, reported to work, and summoned all staff she could reach by telephone as well as proprietors of private clinics, beseeching them to avail whatever they could – skill, syringes, giving sets and blood for transfusion – to save lives.

After brisk medical response, none of the soldiers died. “I began to be identified as somebody who had the potential to head hospitals, this may, among other factors, have contributed to my appointment.”

Other sources suggest, however, that Dr Ondoa’s name could have reached State House courtesy of First Lady Janet Museveni, herself a born-again Christian, who has reportedly been impressed with the high ethics displayed by Pediatrician-cum- Pastor.

If Parliament’s Appointments Committee approves her during vetting expected later this week, Dr Ondoa will become the first female Health Minister since President Museveni took power in 1986. It remains to be seen whether the touch of woman will bring healing to the perennially sick health sector. She reserved her plan to revamp the Health Ministry until Parliament endorses her appointment.