What you need to know:
According to the World Health Organisation, one in every five Ugandans can benefit from rehabilitation, but with the country’s increasing disease burden, accidents, and life expectancy, this ratio is projected to rise in the future
Physical rehabilitation refers to actions attempted to restore or improve the movement and physical functioning of the body. Physical function can be lost due to a variety of factors, including trauma and injuries from accidents and sports, neurological conditions such as stroke and brain injuries, mechanical and occupational pain, inevitable ageing conditions such as arthritis, chronic illnesses such as cancer and HIV, and many more.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in every five Ugandans can benefit from rehabilitation, but with the country’s increasing disease burden, accidents, and life expectancy, this ratio is projected to rise in the future. Physical rehabilitation is currently offered by physiotherapists, who number less than 500 in total and are only employed at regional referral hospitals in the public system, and private facilities that offer the services are concentrated in cities, especially Kampala. The unsolved question is, “Who can access physical rehabilitation in Uganda?”
Apart from the long distances people have to travel to health facilities where rehabilitation can be obtained, there is also the issue of cost. The private sector is responsible for the majority of physical rehabilitation services in the country. A typical physiotherapy visit in Uganda costs 50,000, with some private facilities charging up to 150,000.
A patient requires an average of three (3) visits a week, or a minimum of 150,000, for effective physiotherapy outcomes. Given that most illnesses requiring rehabilitation are chronic, some take years to reach functional outcomes and sometimes require lifetime care, someone must be financially able to facilitate the physical rehabilitation process.
According to the National Labour Force, the average Ugandan earns Shs200,000 per month, which is far too little to cover rehabilitation treatments if they have physical functional impairments. To make matters worse, physical rehabilitation is a need, and one must go through the process if they are to avoid disability.
The cost of physical rehabilitation is one of the causes behind Uganda’s 12.4 percent disability prevalence and the awful retirement and ageing in the country. If you cannot manage to travel to the regional referral hospital weekly or afford the private service, you or a loved one will be at risk of functional limitation and, consequently, physical disability.
As the adage goes, “If you don’t know what it takes to fix it, don’t break it.” Some of the factors that can cause you to incur all rehabilitative costs in this arduous economy are avoidable. To stay healthy, maintain a physically active lifestyle, and control your diet. Take precautions on the road and during sports to avoid accidents and injuries. Even if you are feeling well, have regular check-ups for your body. The earlier a problem is recognized, the easier it is to treat. To preserve the lives of ordinary Ugandans who cannot afford private treatments and travel expenses to regional referral hospitals, the government can intervene in recruiting rehabilitation professionals at all levels of the public health care system.
Denis Nareeba, Physiotherapist and Rehabilitation