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A lot needed to save the health sector
Publish Date: Jun 16, 2011
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THE death of a full term baby in a referral hospital has once again brought to the spotlight the deplorable state of public health care services in Uganda.

Bony and Patience Adong’s baby bled to death from what preliminary reports stated, was an untied umbilical cord. The baby born by Caesarean Section was left unattended in an incubator. There were only two nurses on duty in the women and maternity wing.

This is unacceptable but unfortunately this scenario has become too common in Ugandan hospitals. In as much as there is need to bring to book the health workers involved, all stakeholders need to assess their contribution to the occurrence of incidents such as this one.

Negligence, selfishness, corruption, lack of integrity and a poor work ethic have all contributed to a broken down system in Uganda. When this happens in the health system, where medical workers are trained to save lives, they instead contribute to its loss. Efforts to improve infrastructure and monitor drugs and supplies have been intensified but response to the demand to recruit more and remunerate health workers better, has been slow.

Health care requires highly qualified, committed staff working in fully functional environments but in Uganda there are only six nurses for every 100,000 population. The country needs 2,000 midwives to meet the basic need for maternal and new born care. Yet many more of the few health workers are considering leaving for better working conditions and remuneration in developed countries. Studies have linked fewer registered nurses to poor patient outcomes and danger to patient safety.

In the recently presented budget, the Government proposed to cut costs of its ministries and agencies. A saving of sh40b is expected. When this happens health workers’ issues should be prioritised.

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