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Bidandi: When a sick health care system spares no one

By Moses Walubiri

Added 13th August 2012 07:59 PM

WITHOUT casting aspersions on the amiable venerable politician, Bidandi’s current woes mirror a leaky health care system in Uganda and the failure to fix it by those with the mandate to do so

Bidandi: When a sick health care system spares no one

WITHOUT casting aspersions on the amiable venerable politician, Bidandi’s current woes mirror a leaky health care system in Uganda and the failure to fix it by those with the mandate to do so

By Moses Walubiri

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problem” so presciently noted Mahatma Ghandi.

In his signature philosophical tone, the ascetic Gandhi was making a clarion call for those in positions of power to always go an extra mile in providing solutions to the problems afflicting humanity.

Globally feted for his non-violent approach to India’s independence movement, Gandhi was part of a breed of leaders who believed in using public offices to serve a common good.

When the sun set on the British Empire in India in 1947, one can imagine that the last thing Gandhi and the other people at the vanguard of India’s independence movement dreaded most was a failed state, with say, poor health care system.

Gandhi’s prescient words are true today as they were 60 years ago, especially for key politicians that are at the center of influencing policies in government.

In Uganda, the recent plight of veteran politician Bidandi Sali has made me to reflect on Gandhi’s counsel of using public office to implement policies that would “solve the world’s problems.”

The venerable politician has appealed to government to help him foot his medical bills in a Thai hospital.

Without casting aspersions on the amiable venerable politician, Bidandi’s current woes mirror a leaky health care system in Uganda and the failure to fix it by those with the mandate to do so.

During his 14 years as minister of Local Government, Bidandi, like many before him, failed to impress it upon a government he served to equip Uganda’s hospitals to be able to handle the health emergencies of Ugandans.

The riddle of life and its many subplots is hard to decipher. Perhaps, that is why the political privilegentia rarely give a damn about local hospitals where Franz Fanon’s wretched of the earth go to die.

Normally cushioned from the vicissitudes of life by the trappings of power – including free medical care abroad at public expense – many politicians in Africa rarely give precedence to improving medical care at home.

After all, jets are always on the tarmac to fly them to Western capitals where they can get treatment from experts money can buy.

But there have been instances where many have realized the hard way the folly of reducing hospitals back at home to virtual hospices.

At such moments, like in the event of a heart attack, the private jets are rendered inconsequential without immediate requisite medical interventions.

And in such circumstances, both the politicians and their wretched subjects are rendered helpless.

In recent memory, two African leaders have died in almost similar circumstances on account of rotten health care systems in their countries.

Unlike Bolton Wanderers player, Fabrice Muamba , who had the state of the art British health care system to thank  when he suffered a near fatal cardiac arrest on the pitch, former Togolese president Gnasingibe Eyadema clutched at straws in  almost similar circumstances in February 2005.

While in his hometown of Piya, the iron fisted strongman suffered a heart attack. Perhaps, with the intervention that one would expect in countries with functioning health care systems, it’s not farfetched to presuppose that the then 69 year old ruler would have cheated death, at least by a few more years.

However, Eydema had come to put his trust in his private jet. And he met his creator while being bundled on his jet for specialized medical care in Europe.

Ditto Malawi’s Dr. Bingu Wamutharika in April this year. When he suffered a cardiac arrest, the medical personnel lacked specialized equipment to resuscitate him.

Wamutharika and Eyadema’s deaths were a hard lesson in the folly of thinking that poor health facilities in local hospitals hurt only those without the financial wherewithal to seek medical care abroad.

Finally, when the Grim Reaper extends his cold hand, he knows no destitute from prince, ruler from subject.

As Bidandi continues to recuperate in Thailand, his latest plea for succor from government is a timely reminder that a sick health care finally catches up with everyone.

Bidandi’s failing health and debilitating implication to his finances is wake up call to government to equip our health system to be in position to handle complicated health emergencies for all Ugandans.

Not every Ugandan has Bidandi’s clout to place a call for succor in times of distress.

WITHOUT casting aspersions on the amiable venerable politician, Bidandi’s current woes mirror a leaky health care system in Uganda and the failure to fix it by those with the mandate to do so

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