While addressing participants during the World Heart Day celebrations in Jinja last Friday, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, said she will lobby government and other stakeholders for the construction of 13 regional heart centres in major regional referral hospitals across the country (see: “Kadaga to lobby for 13 health centres” in the Daily Monitor of October 8).
This is a welcome pledge considering that heart patients countrywide need these facilities urgently. Besides, if the 13 heart centres are eventually built, they will be crucial in many ways.
First they will help to decongest Mulago National Referral Hospital. Second, they will go a long way in reducing the number of heart patients seeking treatment abroad, especially in India and South Africa. Third, it will save upcountry patients the cost of transport to Mulago and upkeep during treatment, among others.
However, it is becoming a common practice for leaders in this country to make pledge after pledge to the population without following them through.
At the same event, Ms Kadaga asked why the construction works of a government hospital in Kagoma County can had taken 10 years, something she described as “embarrassing.”
But most importantly, there is need for government to put its acts together. Why would government want to add layers upon layers of health facilities in the country when the existing public health facilities are not serving citizens effectively?
For instance, while leaders never tire of saying government has established health centre IIs, IIIs and IVs, many of the patients who visit these facilities say they rarely get adequate medicines. They also often find no health workers to treat them. But even when they find them, the health workers often lack the requisite tools to administer treatment.
Take the elevation of Kiruddu Hospital in Makindye, and Kawempe hospital - both in the outskirts of Kampala as appendages of Mulago National Referral Hospital to decongest the main Mulago, the move does not seem to have registered the much desired success.
In the circumstances, it would be advisable for government and leaders to first focus on making the existing public health facilities work to their full capacity instead of adding new layers, which do not seem translate into improving people’s health.