The problem with Uganda’s healthcare is affordability...
7 days ago, 10:56
The current standoff between the Government of Uganda and the medical fraternity offers Ugandans much food for thought and also an opportunity to reflect on health services in the country in general.
The standoff began on May 1 when, while presiding over Labour Day celebrations, if ‘celebration’ is indeed the right word in the circumstances, the President seized the opportunity to lambast doctors for among other things, their uncaring attitude towards their patients.
Museveni was smarting from encounters he has had with doctors who in recent times have been rather vocal in voicing their dissatisfaction with their conditions of service, stretching from their salaries which they argue are inadequate, to constant lack of supplies and equipment that would enable them to provide decent services to their compatriots in ill-health.
It seems like merely talking about these things does not impress the government or the president sufficiently for them to take the necessary action. As a result, doctors have taken extreme measures and downed their tools, throwing an already chaotic and dysfunctional system into further chaos.
Whatever Museveni thinks or says about the lack of supplies and equipment is unknown. He is not in the habit of making public statements about the issue. However, on salaries, he has been emphatic.
He has been ‘advising’ doctors and other public servants not to clamour for bigger salaries because he and the government have higher priorities to attend to, to lay the foundation for a thriving economy that will, in the course of time, enable the government to be more generous.
However, like other public servants, doctors have been uncompromising on this. So, recently the government decided to raise their pay.
But the President has been unforgiving, thus his recent diatribe. And now he wants to take measures to ensure that doctors do not ‘hold the government hostage’ again.
One such measure is to import Cuban doctors presumably to ensure that should Ugandan medics go on strike again, services do not come to a complete halt. Many questions arise, but I won’t go into that today. Suffice it to say, though, that the medics’ demands for more money in their pockets are legitimate.
There is another issue, though, which this standoff is not bringing to light, and that is how Ugandans experience health services when they need them.
A recent experience gave me pause for thought. A young man I know has a problem. For the last three months he has been forced to take time off work by severe back pain. Through no fault of his own, he never went to school and has been fending for himself since his early teens.
For the past two decades or so, he has been carrying heavy loads, earning his wages daily. So ever since he stopped working he has had no income.
During that time, he has been to many health facilities, public and private, and even to a ‘traditional healer’. In each instance he has been told a different story.
At a government clinic he was ...
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