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Increase support to health sector

By Vision Reporter

Added 16th April 2015 02:55 PM

This month has so far seen two acclaimed media personalities succumb to cancer at a time when their fans and friends were mobilising resources for their medication abroad.

This month has so far seen two acclaimed media personalities succumb to cancer at a time when their fans and friends were mobilising resources for their medication abroad.

By Michael Mubangizi

This month has so far seen two acclaimed media personalities succumb to cancer at a time when their fans and friends were mobilising resources for their medication abroad.

Veteran news anchor Bbale Francis, lost the battle to cancer of the bladder on April 2, 2015 barely 30 minutes after the launch of the Save Bale campaign by the state owned UBC TV.
 
Barely a week after Bbale’s burial, Rosemary Nankabirwa, a pioneer NTV Uganda news anchor breathed her last owing to adrenocortical carcinoma cancer. This was on the heels of an effective HelpRosemary fundraising drive spearheaded by NTV Uganda in which over Shs 110 million was raised to cater for her specialized treatment abroad. 
 
President Museveni instead of contributing sh5m to this drive should be thinking about putting in place an affordable healthcare system which allows all Ugandans to treated locally without having to hold fundraising sessions to save lives. 
 
These citizen led efforts to save lives are commendable for they show our concern for one another and an appreciation that as human beings, our destines are intertwined. They have also helped put in the spotlight the deadly effects of cancer thanks to the media attention that the press has given to the ailment and demise of Bbale and Nankabirwa. 
 
But how many Ugandans succumb to cancer and many other ailments because of inability to afford medical bills abroad and are hardly reported about in the media and for whom there are no fundraising initiatives for their treatment abroad? 
 
The fundraising initiatives by helpless citizens demonstrate a failure by government to honour its responsibilities to its citizens. It is a slap in the face of us tax payers whose hard-earned money is heavily taxed but who are not afforded basics like health to keep them alive.
 
Unfortunately, government doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to address these health challenges. 
 
The March 2015, National Budget Framework paper for the FY 2015/2016 shows that while government intends to rise the salaries of political leaders like councilors in the coming budget, it will also be reducing spending on the health sector from shs1.2 trillion to sh963.7b!
 
Ironically, the same document is a catalog of key necessities in the health sector that it says government is unable to fund. 
 
While sometimes back, President Museveni issued a welcome directive to reduce medical referrals abroad; such an order can only be realised if it is backed with a commitment to fund Uganda’s health care system.  
 
Indeed the 2015/16 budget framework paper says for the presidential directive to be effected, there is need to equip selected referral hospitals (Mulago, Mbale, Gulu, Mbarara) in the area of cancer services, renal dialysis, imaging and radiology, surgery, lab equipment, ophthalmology and requisite staff training.  
 
The report says sh175b required for this is yet to be got. Another sh20b needed to operationalise the newly completed cancer ward that is intended to reduce referrals abroad is among the funds that government is unable to provide in the 2015/16 budget!
 
That budget framework paper further notes rather regrettably on page 342 that,
 
“Many of the general hospitals some of which were constructed in the 1930s and 1960s are in dire shape. Pictures of these hospitals portraying their sorry state have frequently appeared in the press causing an embarrassment to the Government.”
 
It adds on page 342-343 that some health facilities have a budget of sh120,000 per month (excluding medicines) to deliver all the required services.
 
This is unfortunate especially when one hears of reports that URA has exceeded revenue collection targets and praises that we now fund a big chunk of our budget!
 
The writer is a media and communications practitioner 

Increase support to health sector

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