In the ecstatic moments of life, a minute segment of the population genuinely digest the phrase which says “health is wealth”. If there is anything new the public has learnt this year, it is the fact that indeed health is wealth.
As the Covid-19 spreads worldwide, Uganda as not been spared. Our economic engine, the tourism industry, has come to a halt. Teachers’ source of livelihood, schools, are still closed. Restaurants and hotel industry is yet to operate in full capacities as customers are still very few.
But thanks to President Museveni, Dr Ruth Aceng and her team, the spread of Covid-19 in community has largely been curtailed. For once, walk to work was not criminalised , but rather it became a solution. We were happily spared the wrath of what Covid-19 could have unleashed in the country.
Much as Uganda’s elite are talking of victory against Covid-19, the real challenges to Uganda’s health system remain in place.
For long, disgruntled health workers in our dilapidated health facilities have been advocating for improvement of the health system, including employing health workers in hospitals, stocking drugs, and improving health workers welfare. Health workers have staged a series of strikes to demand improvement in their pay and welfare with little success.
The Covid-19 crisis brought the government back to the listening table. Suddenly, healthcare workers became essential workers. The usual government song of having no money for the healthcare sector changed and money was availed to the sector. Parliament passed big sums of money to the health sector in a supplementary budget to fight Covid-19. IMF also sent money to boost health workers effort.
The government borrowed billion of money from the World Bank for the same effort. The US government also sent money to bolster the fight against Covid-19.
Crisis sometimes comes with opportunities, including a call to action. It presents a crucial or decisive moment or a turning point.
For the more curious Ugandans, we should be questioning ourselves what long-term and sustainable transformation the Covid-19 pandemic has brought for the better transformation of our dilapidated health system? I expect that health policy makers in Uganda are asking themselves the same question amid the fight against Covid-19.
Unfortunately, many planners in this country short-term. Long-term vision for Uganda is not in the DNA of Ugandan leaders. For example, out of the trillions of money government received to combat Covid-19, a whopping amount was allocated to produce and distribute masks for nearly 30 million Ugandans, but are the masks a priority?
Besides, the total cost of constructing and equipping Kirudu and Kawempe was at Shs38 each (making a total of Shs76b). Each of the facilities treat hundreds of patients per day.
Ugandans are not too poor to afford a mask of Shs2,000. We have a very good entrepreneurial spirit, hence people can make and sell mask for survival.
As other countries are focussing on having emergency stocks of vital protective gears, building more ICUs and equipping them, and revamping their health facilities, increasing the number of health workers, in Uganda, there is seemingly no movement in that direction.
Dr Emmanuel Amuje,