PARLIAMENT | HEALTH
A report by Parliament’s sectoral committee on health about the state of affairs in a sample of public health facilities gave lawmakers yet another opportunity to rile against what they contend is a sick public health sector.
The report presented by the committee chairperson, Dr. Michael Bukenya, on Tuesday is a result of oversight visits to a number of public hospitals in Kampala and eastern Uganda close to a year ago.
The malaise, lack of motivation by medical personnel, drugs stockout in different health facilities, hospitals strewn with garbage, dysfunctional equipment and open extortion reflected in the report, according to MPs, is a microcosm of the entire public healthcare system.
Among the hospitals visited by MPs in Kampala include Mulago, Kawempe, Kiruddu and Naguru hospitals. For Eastern Uganda, the lawmakers paid impromptu visits to hospitals in Kamuli, Iganga, Mbale and Kangulumira.
A section of MPs, led by Gen. Elly Tumwine, Jacqueline Amongin, Betty Engola, Jalia Bintu and Silas Aogon contend that the crisis in the public health sector can better be addressed by spending more resources on primary healthcare, instead of firefighting following disease outbreaks.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), primary healthcare refers to essential health care that is based on scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology, which make universal health care accessible to all individuals and families in a community.
It entails simple things like giving locals tutorials on the importance of washing hands after visiting lavatories to avoid water borne diseases and sleeping under mosquito nets to avoid malaria attacks.
Through village health committees, the ministry of health had initially sought to tap into the expertise of these personnel to teach their communities on the basics that MPs are agitating for.
However, Sarah Opendi, the state minister of health for general duties, told lawmakers that although the initial plan was for members of village health committees to offer voluntary services, they have of late demanded that they get paid some stipend.
The report highlighted the dire situation in the hospitals visited, with drugs stockouts being a major problem. “What happened to cost sharing? We pretend to be offering free medical care to our people, yet what we do is give prescription,” Jovah Kamatekah said.
MPs that represent constituencies on Uganda’s borders with DRC and South Sudan – Tom Aza and Richard Gafubasa – made a case for some form of affirmative action by National Medical Stores (NMS) to supply more drugs to cater for refugees that get treatment from public facilities.
Among the highlights in the report are hospitals failing to use new equipment because the manuals are cryptic foreign languages or lack of requisite personnel, failure by Kangulumira hospital to use a theatre since 2010 over lack of an oxygen cylinder and open extortion by medical personnel at Iganga Hospital.
Despite ratifying the Abuja protocol that requires signatories to expend not less than 15% of its national budget on health, government, according to Opendi, has prioritized revamping the country’s infrastructure before tackling concerns in the health sector.