By Madinah Tebajjukira and Irene Nabusoba
An independent ministry should be set up to handle maternal health, the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has said.
â€œWho is planning for womenâ€™s health in this country? Basic things like antibiotics, oxytocins (drugs that help manage bleeding) which cost sh300 and manual vacuum aspirators to remove retained products from the womb are not there,â€ she told journalists at a briefing on the state of maternal health on Friday.
â€œDoctors are operating on telephones... May be we do not know womenâ€™s needs. Maternal death in Uganda is due to our failure and poor planning. We need to lift maternal health out of the general health sector so that we can identify the real needs and challenges,â€ Kadaga said.
She regretted that there had been many debates on the high maternal deaths but little had been done.
â€œWe have been discussing this matter (maternal health financing) for a while but nothing is done. That is why we rejected the Ministry of Financeâ€™s request for a supplementary budget because we did not see their priorities like health,â€ she said.
Kadaga further argued that the country needs specialised planning at the grassroots because maternal health is not prioritised at lower levels.
She expressed concern that many ministry and department budgets focus on accountability for cars and workshops.
Dr Pius Okong, a senior gynaecologist at St Francis Hospital Nsambya, said 6,000 women die annually due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. This translates to 16 deaths daily.
â€œCanada, which has the same population like Uganda, registers between 10-12 deaths annually. This is because they have made basic maternal interventions like drugs and staff available,â€ he said.
Prof. Florence Mirembe, a senior consultant gynaecologist, called on men to support their spouses to seek medical care early.
She noted that though men equally contribute to child birth, they still lag behind in promoting maternal health because it is considered a womenâ€™s issue.
According to Mirembe, 80% of women who die in Mulago Hospital arrive late because they first have to get permission from their husbands.
Kadaga said several residents of Kamuli district only go to health centres after self-medication and several visits to herbalists prove futile.
She called for an examination to establish why some people shun health facilities in favour of herbalists.