Give our health sector attention

Wednesday August 14 2013

The unrelenting reports of human resource challenges within the country’s health sector should cause us to pause and consider the health sector situation in order to make practical and progressive steps.

Last week, figures from the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council showed that more than 2,000 (nearly 50 per cent of the registered number of medical practitioners) had left the country in the past 10 years.

Now the latest report on human resources for health shows that some 1,124 health workers had not reported for duty as of June this year yet they were expected to take over their new offices by the beginning of 2013.

There are clear indications of government’s willingness to deal with these problems and some commendable steps have been taken in that direction. The release of an additional Shs46 billion for recruitment of health workers last year is one of those commendable steps.

Unfortunately, according to the Human Resources for Health report in some districts, there was a notable failure to attract some workers, particularly anaesthetic assistants, ophthalmic clinical officers, public health nurses, dispensers, theatre assistants, cold chain assistants, midwives, and mostly senior medical officers.

Reports from some districts show that the rate of health workers reporting to work after appointment was greatly affected by lack of staff accommodation. Still, for the health workers who reported to work, their retention will be greatly determined by the availability and state of their accommodation, according to the report.

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Despite assurances from Health minister Ruhakana Rugunda, that the recruitment exercise was continuous and that other health personnel continue to report for duty as their accommodation issues are being resolved, the government will have to do more in regard to improving the remuneration and working conditions of the health personnel.
Unsustainable stopgap measures will only work to aggravate the current health sector problems.

The government would indeed do well to heed the recommendations of the report, as it calls for partners and all stakeholders to prioritise staff accommodation as a strategy to address the issue of health worker attraction, retention and motivation.

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