Lawmakers on the Parliamentary Covid-19 Taskforce have urged government to focus on strengthening the local health units as a major shield to relieve the country’s health sector now limping through the shocks triggered by Covid-19.
The taskforce, currently split into four teams to cover the eastern, central, western and northern regions, has also suggested government strongly considers strengthening home-based care system as a measure to manage Covid-related cases remotely.
They want government to train and deploy medical staff in villages so that they provide the needed medical care when the need arises.
The taskforce constituted by Deputy Speaker Anita Among to among other things inquire into government measures and systems to contain and, or mitigate shocks induced by the second wave of the pandemic, and the 42-day lockdown.
Before it was dispatched, the taskforce led by the Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu held a week-long session at Parliament to inquire into government plan in the containment and, or fight against the spread of the virus, and its effects on Ugandans.
The above suggestions, according the legislators, will not only minimise the spread of the disease, but also give chance to government to manage Covid cases remotely and room to resuscitate the strained health sector.
They also want the government to train health workers, boost Village Health Teams (VHT) and improve the remote health centres by upgrading and scaling up their budgets.
Whereas the lawmakers agreed that the major remedy is vaccinating Ugandans, they suggested that the above remedies be adopted as the pursuit for vaccines by government continues.
They said they have since realised a string of glaring gaps in the hospitals and other health structures meant to contain the virus.
For instance, the eastern Uganda team led by Dr Emmanuel Otaala said there is need to establish a regional referral hospital in the Bukedi region to serve the more than two million people in the area, who are currently straining Tororo hospital. Tororo hospital is said to receive patients from Butaleja, Tororo, Busia, among other districts in the Bukedi region.
In Mbale, it was found that Mbale Regional Referral Hospital is operating with only four ambulances instead of eight as allocated by the Ministry of Health. The four ambulances, the Mbale hospital director, Dr Emmanuel Tugaineyo, said they lack the necessary funds to facilitate their smooth operations.
Like in most health units and hospital inspected by the MPs, there was a common outcry of lack of adquate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), delayed or none advancement of risk allowance to medical teams on duty, among others.
The team in northern Uganda established that despite the low staffing levels at Pajule Healthy Centre IV in in Pader District, the facility also caters for patients from neighbouring districts, including Agago, Kitgum and Oyam. The MPs thus demanded that the district hospital be fully equipped.
In West Nile, the team led by Koboko Municipality MP Charles Ayume revealed that majority of the people in upcountry districts flood the town areas hence contravening the guidelines.
“You find that our people mostly move on foot and because security [personnel] can’t stop them, they end up crowding in the town and major trading areas,” Terego West County MP, Joel Leku said.
A fortnight ago, as she appeared before lawmakers on the Covid-19 taskforce, the Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng said there is a shortage of medical specialists yet it is hard to sustain them because of low pay.
“Government provided money for training anaesthesiologists. We have trained many of them but unless we enhance their salaries to their level, they will keep going away,” she said.
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