The health ministry has indicated that the earlier the National Health Insurance Scheme Bill is passed into law, the easier the improvement of primary health care services as a fundamental component of universal health coverage will be.
According to WHO, Primary health care (PHC) addresses the majority of a person’s health needs throughout their lifetime including physical, mental and social well-being and it is people-centred rather than disease-centred.
On the other hand, universal health coverage means that all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.
Dr Charles Olaro, the director Health Services, Clinical and Community at the health ministry said that the move would bring additional resources to the sector and help the country to improve on the quality of health services.
“Currently, the health sector is allocated 8 per cent of the national budget and we really want to move towards the 15 per cent that government pledged during the Abuja declaration. So we really need to have additional resources,” Dr Olaro said.
Cabinet in June this year approved the Bill to facilitate the provision of accessible, affordable, acceptable and quality healthcare services to citizens irrespective of their age, economic, health and social statuses such that when one is sick, they can receive health services without picking money from their pockets.
The bill once signed into law, shall make it mandatory for every Ugandan above 18 years to pay for the national health insurance.
Dr Olaro was speaking Tuesday at the release preliminary findings from a 2019 national survey on the on primary health care performance at the individual and facility level.
The survey involving 4,373 respondents in a total of 110 enumeration areas found out that 51 per cent of the people found it difficult to pay their visit to health facilities. The other 44 per cent had to borrow money or sell something in order to afford their visit, particularly in rural regions.
Carried out in January and February this year, the survey also involved visiting health facilities in those enumeration areas of all types public, private , private not for profit, clinics and drug shops.
Dr Elizabeth Nabiwemba, one of the principal investigator said the findings indicated that lower health facilities that handle more of the population don’t have running water at the level of 70 per cent, although the medicines were generally available in the upper health facilities.
“But again in the lower health facilities there is significant lapse [in availability of medicine] which are critical for delivery of primary health care. Issues to do with quality improvement have Health centre IV that are dedicated to improving quality such as community management committee,” Dr Elizabeth said.
A total of 4, 373 respondents, 76 per cent under the age of 45 (surveyed aged 15 )+, 60 per cent of these were females , 68 per cent with primary or no education, 80 per cent living in rural areas and 60 per cent married or living with a peer
Availability of medicine on the day of the survey whether they had running water or not, asked about running water.
According to WHO, Health systems founded on strong primary care are essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
SDG 3.8 targets to achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.