Govt to pay medics using mobile money

A mobile money agent attends to a customer in downtown, Kampala, last year. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The three-year project will test the efficiency of  paying health workers electronically.

The head of immunisation programme in the Health  ministry, Dr Alfred Driwale, has said they will start paying health workers using digital payment methods. 
Speaking during the launch of the Digital Health Payment Initiatives and Research in Africa (DHPI-R) project, Dr Driwale said health workers have been experiencing delayed payment because of rudimentary methods.

“The times are changing and the way we do business must change. One of the things which should change is the speed with which you [health workers] receive funds and ability to trace expenditure,” he said yesterday in Kampala.
Dr Driwale said the challenges they get with the existing system, which delays payment, is that often they don’t have an existing database at the local level with people whom they routinely include in community-level activities.

“For example, if you don’t have the database of community health workers and village health teams whom you ordinarily pay, who are in the tens of thousands, it will delay the payment. Because first, you will have to register them in hard copy, then someone has to enter the data into an electronic platform-excel document, then this will be uploaded into the [government] system for payment,” Dr Driwale explained.
Prof Peter Waiswa, the director of the project at Makerere University School of Public Health, said they will collect a database of health workers and test the efficiency of the method in a three-year period.

“It is for health workers who participate in immunisation campaigns in Africa. One of the most important tools we have is immunisation. We have been doing Covid-19, polio, HIV/Aids, malaria campaigns, but the way we have been paying health workers is an issue,” he said.
“How do you carry cash from Kampala to the rest of the country and make sure you pay people on time and the right amount of money –you know how money can disappear. If people are not paid on time and the right amount of money, they are not always motivated and this affects the quality of the campaign,” he added.

Dr Diwale, however, said some health workers whose details are in government systems are being paid using digital methods. 
Dr Herbert Luswata, the secretary-general of Uganda Medical Association, told this newspaper that the project will be a game changer.  
“For outreach programmes such as immunisation, it is very feasible because it makes accountability very easy. When you pay using mobile money, you just show a mini-statement,” he said.  

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 The project is a $3 million (Shs11b) Bill and Melinda Gates-funded investment that established a new research initiative anchored at two existing prominent African institutions. The institutions include Makerere University and the University of Dakar, Senegal, to catalyse the creation of evidence on the value add of digitalised payment of health workers on the quality of immunisation and other health campaigns.