Uganda to revamp ailing health care sector

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Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, Uganda’s State Minister for Health

The Ugandan government is drafting new policies on administration and management of the health sector with the aim of improving healthcare service delivery.

Dr. Chris Byaromunsi, the State Minister for Health says the latest Millennium Development Goals –MDG report indicates that although the maternal and child mortality rates have reduced significantly, progress on health related goals remains slow.

Millennium Development Goal number 4 is on child health, 5 maternal health and 6 HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria. “Government acknowledges the fact that there is poor remuneration of health workers, inadequate staffing and lack of basic equipment and supplies in health facilities across the country,” the minister said.

According to the minister, these have contributed to government’s failure to meet the country’s Health Millennium Development Goals. The minister said to meet the target; government has resolved to cause reforms in the policies and administration of the health sector. According to the 2011 Uganda Health and Demographic survey, 7, 200 women die every year during childbirth or due to pregnancy related complications something Dr. Byaromunsi says concerns government.

He noted the government wants to ensure that preventable diseases and complications are reduced and eventually eliminated. Uganda’s healthcare performance is still ranked as one of the worst by the World Health Organisation.

The country is ranked 186th out of 191 nations. A Ugandan’s health and life expectancy is among the lowest across the globe. In Uganda, one in every 200 births ends the mother’s life, around 1 million people are living with HIV and although malaria accounts for 14% of all deaths, less than 10% of children under five are sleeping under insecticide-treated nets.

Studies on the sector in Uganda, point to one thing – that offering public health services remains a daunting task. Dr. Sandra Kiapi, the executive director Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/Aids (AGHA), in a paper titled, Health Worker Shortfall: Impact in Ugandaindicates that due to critical shortage of health workers in the country, night watchmen sometimes come in to prescribe drugs for needy patients.

Another report by the Voluntary Service Overseas and HEPS-Uganda 2011, lists, gross under-staffing, inadequate pay, crumbling infrastructure, limited and poor-quality staff accommodation and shortages of medical supplies and equipment, as Uganda’s major healthcare challenges.

This report quotes health workers speaking heatedly about their struggles to survive on low pay – support their dependents, educate their children, pay rent and other bills, and afford transport to work, among others. If paid better, the report notes, a nurse would work on patients with love, care and happiness.