The reality of the sorry state of public health facilities in Uganda continues to hit the population hard. This matter again came to the fore on Tuesday when the Nnabagereka, Sylvia Nagginda, narrated to mourners why her father John Luswata Ssebugwawo was moved from the government’s Mulago National Referral Hospital to a private hospital where he died.
According to Ms Nagginda, Mulago hospital is ailing and has no dialysis machine, which was needed to save her father’s life.
Lest we forget, in 2017, the question of poor healthcare provision in the country compelled doctors under their umbrella body, Uganda Medical Association (UMA), to go on strike. Their protest was, among other things, anchored on shortages of essential supplies, some of which were and still are as basic as gloves, painkillers and disinfectants. “The lack of supplies and equipment in the hospitals ... should stop,” a UMA spokesman said then.
The government, using taxpayers’ money, is obligated to provide effective healthcare to its citizens. This pertinent issue brings to focus the ongoing debate as to whether the government should first complete the renovation and equipping of Mulago National Referral Hospital and regional hospitals in the country or to guarantee a $379 million (about Shs1.4 trillion) loan to a foreign investor to construct an international specialised hospital in Lubowa, Wakiso District.
In a situation where public hospitals that serve the majority of citizens lack medicines and equipment, while doctors and other health workers are in constant flight to foreign countries in search of greener pastures due to low pay, among other things, the logical step that the government should take is to first improve the existing public health facilities.
It is not enough or even helpful for Ms Diana Atwine, the Health ministry Permanent Secretary, to defend that Mulago National Referral Hospital has enough dialysis machines when on the contrary, a precious life has been lost due to lack of it at the same facility.
It is, therefore, imperative that the government takes in good faith Ms Nagginda’s appeal that it improves the sector so that all patients get healthcare at the right time.
It is equally critical that on top of increasing the requisite supplies to public hospitals, there is also need to enhance salaries and allowances of doctors and health workers.
For instance, it is not uncommon to find health workers in hospitals dragging their feet instead of treating patients with the urgency their conditions deserve. Reason? Complaints of low pay, lack of accommodation, lack of transport and poor working environment.
Therefore, all this must be wholesomely addressed in order to achieve effective health service delivery in Uganda.
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