Kampala. The United States Ambassador to Uganda has described as “puzzling” a decision by government to export medical personnel yet medical facilities are under staffed.
Amb Scott DeLisi wondered why the Foreign Affairs ministry plans to export highly-trained Ugandan medical personnel badly needed at home.
The envoy was speaking recently at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Fellowship Programme Dissemination event for 2013/14 Fellows. The event was organised by the Makerere University College of Health Sciences and School of Public Health.
Amb DeLisi said the move to export medical personnel was disconcerting to the US, as partners who have “invested significantly in training medical professionals” in Uganda.
“As we work together to strengthen and improve the health workforce in Uganda, we cannot afford to have the government encourage and facilitate the exodus from Uganda of health workers who already possess the critical skills and training so badly needed here,” he stated.
“Effective human capital development in Uganda faces significant hurdles. Not addressing these challenges now will undermine economic growth in the future due to lost productivity and ever increasing bills in health and education that donors simply cannot pay,” he said at the event held at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs early this year said the government of Trinidad and Tobago had requested Uganda to supply medical professionals to supplement its health sector. The ministry says the move would also “accelerate existing bilateral relations between the two countries.”
The ministry in July produced a shortlist of 215 specialists that are set to be interviewed and sent out. A closer analysis shows majority of the doctors are from government hospitals and health centres; 93 from Mulago and only a handful from private practice.
The Health minister in charge of General Duties, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, told Daily Monitor that the matter is being addressed.
On the US ambassador’s concern, Dr Tumwesigye said: “Medical staff trained by the US and other partners are usually grounded in positions where they cannot easily go.”
Trinidad and Tobago, a country of only 1.3 million people, has 12 times as many doctors per capita than Uganda. It is ranked in the 67th position of countries with best health systems, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). Uganda on the other hand is in the 149th position. WHO recommends a ratio of one doctor per 1,000 people.