Uganda’s healthcare system steadily approaches the cliff

It’s a Friday afternoon. I am at DHL’s Kampala office waiting to ship a package. In the same room, I glance at a face I often see on the run – whether she is grabbing coffee in the city, or queuing to receive a visa at one of Kampala’s foreign embassies.

The face is familiar for other reasons. She shares prominent facial features with her father, the deceased mayor of Masaka, Cyprian Bwanika. The political part of him must have rubbed off on her because she always manages a smile.

After years of running into this lady, I pick this particular afternoon to exchange a few words with her and a few days later, I am grateful for this exchange. She is very quick on her feet and in a hurry as usual but offers me about a 90 seconds biopic.

I later learn from press reports that her full name is Dr Margaret Nakakeeto. My memory is now fuzzy as my feeble attempts to remember, point to her as one of the short-lived youth MPs in the defunct National Resistance Council (NRC) who took office for just two years before the NRC was dissolved after the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution 20 years ago. I skip that question.

Diehard paparazzi don’t have time for patronage. “How do you do? Where are you now?” “I am now at Kibuli Hospital. I did not have the time to set up and run a hospital of my own,” She responds rather quickly. “Kibuli turned the old hospital block into a school and has new facilities.” She cuts the next question short by doing a self-answer, “I specialise in babies, actually those born prematurely with complications.” The interview had ended at that point. Both of us glanced at each other to move to other pressing business – dropping packages at the courier office.

On Sunday at my local barber’s shop, I ask for a copy of Sunday Vision. There she is my subject of 48 hours earlier announcing the birth of quadruplets in Kibuli. It was a difficult birth, mother did not survive.

She suffered a heart attack.
Father unemployed already has three children. It was still her beaming smile and ideas on how to nurture this new brood. Multiple pregnancies are on the rise as are deadly cancers of the endocrine system and reproductive system in women caused by a combination of factors doctors have not yet been able to express in public health terms.

Access to medical care, even where the provider is the same (the State), is becoming the new apartheid of our time. Frustrated by poor working conditions and meagre pay, the cadre of specialists is falling fast.

People like Nakakeeto are still around but not for long. It takes two decades of post-graduate work to train the people we expect to perform the miracles that senior consultants are expected to deliver on everyday, even though they draw salaries lower than those of appendages to the political system.

An interrogation of radiologist at another private hospital revealed more distressing news as radiologists are key to diagnosing the sorts of cancers that have been in the news recently.

Critical equipment in Mulago at the Cancer Institute’s Department of Nuclear Medicine broke down in July and lies in wake, waiting for repairs. So, frustrated patients, even when offered VIP service, soon despair and their families and friends start fund-raising drives to ship their loved ones abroad at great cost. Even the thoughtful Desire Luzinda is in on this fiscal cliff, she is auctioning her collection of shoes!

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law
and an Aocate.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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