Where’s private health sector in Covid fight

Saturday June 13 2020


By Hussein Lumumba Amin

During my evening walk, I reflected on the Budget speech read by Finance minister Matia Kasaija and the question around the veracity of the country’s Covid-19 test kits.

I have been advocating for nationwide mass testing, so I think we need to be clear about the testing capacity of this country, the obvious mistakes made in determining Covid response fund priorities, as well as the issue of safe public procurement process.

In my view, the country has not been decisive and convincing in the two most important areas in Covid-19 response.

We have seen flip-flopping on the issue of mask and the complacency in prioritising the matter of the country’s Covid-19 testing capacity, yet these are, in my view, the two most important aspects of fighting the pandemic.

This is because one is about being able to detect infections and determining the true prevalence of the virus in the country.

The other is about denying the virus direct infection through the nose, eyes, and mouth of all persons. They are essentially the two first lines of response and defence.


Mathematically, there is no way a country, which did not invest in mass testing, can claim to know the true prevalence of the virus nor claim to be “winning”. How do you know?

Despite having experienced several serious disease outbreaks in the last two decades, including Ebola, it seems we have learnt little. And evidence of this failure is that to this day, there is no proper national pandemic response plan policy document to talk about.

A national emergency plan could simply be activated as soon as there is an outbreak, and everyone would immediately know what to do. Instead, what we see instead are unclear directives requiring clarification. This leads to confusion.

I have raised some of these public health policy deficiencies, and nobody is saying these inconsistencies could partly explain the public’s fatigue in adhering to sometimes illogical, and contradictory guidelines.

While government seems to have no plan on how to improve the public’s compliance rate, there could still be another huge demon lurking behind the nation’s fight against coronavirus. It is estimated that many Ugandans go for medical treatment at private clinics or hospitals.

The private sector, therefore, plays a big role in daily healthcare services for citizens. Yet in regard to Covid-19 fight, the sector is conspicuously absent. Why have they been left out?

Hussein Lumumba Amin,
Kampala, Uganda.