We’ve no cash to hire more doctors, says PS Atwine

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine. PHOTO | BRIAN ADAMS KESIIME

What you need to know:

  •  Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, says although the ministry is aware of the acute shortage of health workers in government health facilities, they are not about to recruit more staff due to financial constraints. 

Ugandans will continue to bear the brunt of an inadequate number of health workers in public health facilities as the Ministry of Health ponders the next step of action.

 Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, says although the ministry is aware of the acute shortage of health workers in government health facilities, they are not about to recruit more staff due to financial constraints. 

 On average a junior doctor in Uganda earns about Shs5m while nurses and midwives earn between Shs600,000 and Shs2.2m depending on their experience and qualifications

  “Our doctor, nurse and midwife to patient ratio is not where we want it to be but we don’t have money to recruit more health workers unless the Ministry of Finance comes to our rescue,” Dr Atwine said.

She added:  “We have not yet recruited more staff needed at Kawempe referral hospital for example. They are still at 40 percent but they do what they can to save lives.”  

Dr Atwine made the revelation on Friday after receiving Maama kits worth Shs30m donated to Kawempe Referral Hospital by Stanbic Bank.

Challenges

 According to the  Kawempe hospital executive director, Dr Nehemiah Katusiime, they have about 180 workers less than half of the required 476 staff.

 On average, 80 to 120 women deliver from Kawempe referral hospital on a daily basis. 

According to the World Health Organisation, Uganda’s doctor to patient ratio is 1:25,000 while the nurse to patient ratio is 1:11,000. This, WHO, says is far below the recommended doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000. 

  Dr Atwine admits that the few health personnel, who are available, are overworked to the extent of collapsing, something she confessed to having experienced while still working as a medical officer.

 “I was seven months pregnant but I had to rush to Nakasero Blood Bank to get blood for the patients I left onward. It was hectic. When I went back home, I collapsed,” she recounts.

 Most times, understaffed hospitals rely on cheaper labour from medical interns who sometimes lay down their tools over unpaid or little allowances.

 Despite the challenges, Dr Atwine said the number of women and girls who die due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications like obstructed labour and infections has reduced from 368 per every 100,000 live births last year to less than 300 mothers.

Dr Atwine attributed this progress to the hard-working teams, availability of medical supplies in hospitals, and improved referral system, among others.

The Chief Executive Officer for Stanbic Bank, Ms Anne Juuko, said 20 percent of the bank’s budget would be dedicated to improving maternal health in Uganda.

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