His Highness the Aga Khan yesterday officiated at the initiation of construction of an ultra-modern Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala, which he said will be dedicated to offering specialised treatment to Ugandans and patients from neighbouring countries.
The hospital, he added, will be part of an integrated healthcare system in the region and will underline e-health system to enhance relationship with the other two Aga Khan hospitals in Nairobi, Kenya, and Karachi in Pakistan. Both are certified and accredited by the US Joint Commission International — as gold standard or first class hospitals.
President Museveni also attended the ceremony held at Nakawa before hitting the campaign trail in eastern Uganda. The first phase of the construction to cost $100m (about Shs337b) will be completed in 2020 with a 150-bed wing but the plan is to have an overall 600-bed capacity.
The Aga Khan said the hospital will cover not just health but also education, training and research to be able to offer the best medical treatment.
“It is this research which will enable the Aga Khan University Hospital to bring new knowledge in areas that we desperately need,” he said.
The Aga Khan added: “It is important to keep in mind that disease is changing in its nature. We are more and more confronted in modern society by non-communicable diseases and in the decades ahead we will be concentrating in the Aga Khan Health Network and other medical institutions in dealing with non-communicable diseases. And I refer to diabetes, hyper tension, cardiovascular disease, mental and neurological illness, cancer and others. These are the areas where we must concentrate to serve future generations.”
Information from the Health ministry indicates that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are becoming increasingly important as causes of illnesses and death in Uganda.
The Uganda Cancer Institute 2013 data shows that for the last three years, the number of cancer patients shot up from 1,200 to 2,800 with more than 60 per cent of the patients showing advanced cases of the ailments.
“There is no doubt that the developing countries need to improve health standards and the hospital will therefore seek to treat everyone who needs care. Modern medicine is expensive but it is our responsibility to make it available to all the population and we undertake to do that,” the Aga Khan said.
The hospital will also provide advanced care and specialties in women and child health, cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery and regenerative medicine and neurology.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, President Museveni scolded government officials for delaying to offer the land for the project, delaying it by two years.
“I am sorry the project has delayed but it’s good now we are taking off,” he told the Aga Khan. He applauded the Aga Khan, the Ismaili community and Asian-Ugandans [at large] for their contribution, which he said have filled the entrepreneurship gap.
The groundbreaking ceremony was also attended by Attorney General Fredrick Ruhindi, State minister for Education in charge of Science, Tickodri Togboa, Health minister Elioda Tumwesigye, and Prince Hassan Kimbugwe from OpecPrime Properties, among others.
The hospital complex and attendant infrastructures will sit on 60 acres of land in Nakawa, which was reclaimed from the 160-acre Nakawa-Naguru land, which was in 2005 given to OpecPrime Properties, a local firm that was representing UK-based Comer Group, for redevelopment into a mega satellite city but the project has since dragged on. Mr Museveni lauded Prince Kimbugwe for cooperating with the Aga Khan to pave way for the project.
Health minister Dr Tumwesigye said with the hospital offering specialised treatment it will save Uganda the big budget it spends on sending officials and the well-connected abroad for treatment. He said government spends about shs237b ($70m) on treatment abroad.
Opecprime Properties (U) Ltd, the former owners of the 60 acres of Nakawa land given to His Highness the Aga Khan to build a university hospital, have clarified that they handed over the land to fast-track development of the area.
According to Prince Hassan Kimbugwe, a director in OpecPrime Properties, the Aga Khan’s initiative is within their firm’ development plan.
“For us to develop the area, we had a master plan. We were thinking of either building a mega shopping mall, government offices or university. So when the Aga Khan group approached us, we had no objection. I would like to assure the former 2,000 tenants who we promised housing units that they are to get apartments at the Naguru Housing Estate,” he told journalists.
Asked if Opecprime Properties was forced off the land, Prince Kimbugwe said there was no need because the agreement was mutual.
Presiding over the groundbreaking ceremony in Nakawa yesterday, President Museveni hailed OpecPrime Properties and Prince Kimbugwe for accepting to hand over part of the land to the Aga Khan for faster development.
By Stephen Wandera