Two incidents this week sharply illustrate what happens when access to healthcare is restricted either by the lack of equipment, infrastructure and health workers or hampered by the long distances to access health centres and the exorbitant cost of treatment in the only facilities which have a bed with specialised care.
The health sector has been dogged by many of these problems over the years and the Covid-19 pandemic just brought them sharply into focus. The sad story of the death of a Primary School leaver in Pakwach Town Council, a 13-year-old, who scored the best PLE grades in his district, is an illustration that the current lack of access to health facilities is not only causing families grief but it is also robbing the country of its potential bright future.
If the district’s brightest student could not benefit from a proper diagnosis and treatment at a district health centre, then where is the hope for the rest of the district and the country at large? There have also been many cases of families struggling to pay hospital bills that they can ill afford and the only reason that Ugandans are checking into hospitals where the bills are likely to accumulate beyond their means is the sheer lack of options.
Only so many health facilities have intensive care facilities and a healthy supply of oxygen. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to save lives, families are being impoverished as they pour their life savings into the care of one family member.
Inadequate health services are also robbing the country of its human capital in the form of its children, skilled workforce, and family pillars.
If we quantify the cost based not just on the count of casualties but in the meaning of that loss, then we can begin to repair the damage, knowing that restoration of health facilities and widening access to services is the key to unlock our future prosperity.
If there is anything to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that good health takes precedence over everything else. No matter how many steps we take forward in developing other sectors, if we do not move to adequately motivate health staff, equip health centres and personnel and ensure access to the same, all our efforts will crumble at the next outbreak. Poor health can shut down entire economies and if left unattended, can spell doom for ours too.