As the public continues to decry the state of the country’s health sector, keeping alive the flames that sttarted with the news that the radiography machine at Mulago Cancer Institute had broken down, government officials working in different departments have began seriously trading accusations about who is to blame for the mess in the health sector.
The trading of accusations went public yesterday, as State House’s Director of Medicines and Health Service Delivery Monitoring Unit, Dr Diana Atwine pinned the health ministry for all the rot in the country’s health sector.
““The issue is not lack of money or even facilities, it is the uncoordinated activities, negligence and wastage in the system. we are the problem,” Dr. Atwine said.
But although Dr. Atwine included herself among the people to blame, she rather cunningly pinned the health ministry. She was addressing members of parliament’s health committee about the rot in the country and the evidence she presented principally put the Ministry of Health on the spot because it is the ministry charged with running the country’s health sector. All three health ministers (doctors Chris Baryomunsi, Elioda Tumwesigye and Sarah Opendi) were present.
Dr. Atwine presented evidence (mostly from a countrywide tour she conducted last year) to the effect that Uganda’s health sector is characterized by negligence and corruption and absenteeism among medical officers, giving of expired drugs to patients, shoddy works and quack doctors, misuse of equipment, among other things. Some of the most damning cases Dr. Atwine presented included the case of a brand new X-Ray machine in Kamuli which has remained unused in its box for 12 years.
“Most health facilities we visited were non-functional yet they had all the facilities, including theatres. The issue is not money, it is the uncoordinated activities, negligence and wastage in the system,” Dr. Atwine said. She also said that wherever she visited in her research, right from Mulgo hospital, there was no accountability and it was clear medical officers were stealing money.
However, the health ministry officials were clearly displeased with Dr. Atwine’s blame, and when he came to speak Health Minister Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye he deflected the blame to the general legal and administrative structure under which they work –which read more like blaming the powers above him.
“Under the current system we can’t really fufil our mandate of delivering services to the people. Even Dr Diana there is lamenting because she cannot take action… She sits on the medical board but she is powerless to do anything to change the situation. A minister cannot even dismiss a cleaner, they can’t take any action.”
Sources from parliament also revealed that out of Dr. Atwine’s earshot members of the health committee blamed the rot on the appointing authorities whom they said don’t value efficiency and so never follow up on what is being done, let alone mepower the people they appoint to be efficient.
It might be remembered that when Dr. Atwine first appeared at parliament earlier this week to explain the rot in the health sector, she again clashed with other medical authorities. Particularly, Mulago Hospital executive Director Dr Baterana Byarugaba and Health ministry Permanent Secretary Dr Asuman Lukwago dismissed her charges as just populist, saying the problem was with the people who allocate funding because they give the Health Ministry insufficient funds.