A journey of no return, the mystery of Nairobi medical evacuations
Sep 27, 2022
As to whether Kenya’s public healthcare sector is better than that of Uganda, the facts are blurred since we have few referrals if any to their public hospitals
By Magezi Kiriinjju
For a few years now, Ugandans have got accustomed to breaking news about the country’s top officials being flown to Kenyan hospitals for further and better medical treatment.
These evacuations are done because the patients have ailments that may need specialized doctors and or advanced equipment that don’t exist in Uganda. So, personally, I don’t have a problem with any efforts meant to save a life.
However, these evacuations have created an impression in the Ugandan public that the Kenyan healthcare system is very advanced in comparison to Uganda, and honestly, you can’t blame them because why would our VIPs be referred there. The problem is, most of the known evacuees return home dead making me wonder whether it’s worth the transfer to Kenya in the first place.
Another impression created by the referrals and evacuations which is wrong is that our patients are normally admitted into public hospitals in Kenya. In other words, government officials are airlifted to an equivalent of Mulago of Kenya except that its better equipped. This is the very reason we religiously believe that Kenya’s public healthcare system is very advanced.
However, my small investigation shows that 100% of our referrals end up in private hospitals not government ones.
There is also an obscure fact that is oblivious to Ugandans, some of the doctors who receive our patients in Kenya are Ugandans. Even in South Africa, Ugandan doctors are doing a fantastic job there. This clearly indicates that we are producing quality medical personnel.
However, when it comes to the level of private sector investment in healthcare, Kenya beats Uganda hands down. Investors have built world class diagnostic centres and hospitals there. That is why we transfer patients from our private facilities to their private facilities. They also pay doctors better and have much superior equipment.
As to whether Kenya’s public healthcare sector is better than that of Uganda, the facts are blurred since we have few referrals if any to their public hospitals. I personally don’t know anyone.
That said, Uganda is not sleeping, we are attracting private developers in the healthcare sector and they are doing well although something is still missing. Government should continue to make it much easier to acquire and import high tech medical equipment into the country by investors. The president has relentlessly pushed for better pay for medical personnel in order to encourage them to stay home and work with dedication.
Uganda’s doctor-patient and nurse-patient ratio is still low, approximately 1:25 000 and 1:11 000 respectively. It is hoped that better enumeration of scientists will encourage young Ugandans to take on science subjects so as to bridge these gaps to the World Health Organization recommended doctor to population ratio of 1:1,000.
The million dollar puzzle; is Kenya’s public healthcare sector supposed to be better than Uganda’s? My answer is definitely and resoundingly yes. In fact, that some Ugandans even dare make a comparison is testimony to NRM government’s efforts to close the gap despite Kenya’s overwhelming advantages.
Both countries attained independence at around the same time, Uganda on October 9, 1962 and Kenya on December 12, 1963 respectively, barely a year apart. But their fortunes have been very far apart, unlike Kenya that has been peaceful for 59 years, Uganda has been anything but. Investors put their money where peace and security are guarantees so as to safeguard their investment. Kenya has been such an environment for over 50 years.
Uganda on the other hand has gone through political turmoil for 30 of her 59 years of independence with not only catastrophic human loss of life but exodus of business as well. Once investors lose trust in your capacity to keep their money safe, it becomes a herculean task to convince them otherwise.
The National Resistance Movement government under President Kaguta Museveni has done everything possible to assure investors that Uganda is now ready for business and they are beginning to come back. The return of Asian properties to their owners was a masterstroke, it created international confidence in Uganda’s willingness to guarantee safety of investor equipment and money. Peace and security prevailing in the country has sealed the deal.
The writer works with the Government Citizen Interaction Centre and a Member of Campfire Ideological Sturdy Group.