Health workers coverage stuck at 56% countrywide

By Juliet Kigongo

The proportion of trained health workers across the country has stagnated at 56 per cent for the last two years, a situation that has affected the efficiency of the sector, the health minister has said.

Dr Christine Ondoa, while speaking at the eighth National Health Assembly and 17th Joint Review Mission in Kampala yesterday, said:” Efforts to ensure attainment and maintenance of an adequate, equitably distributed and appropriately skilled workforce were hampered by recruitment as a result of a limited wage bill.”

The health minister said support is needed from Parliament to increase funding for recruitment of health workers to fill the gaps in district hospitals. “This is on top of the Shs2.2 billion we allocated for contracting graduate interns. Discussions are also on-going to decentralise health workers, which will be advantageous as far as recruitment, supervision, mentoring and discipline of the health workers is concerned,” Dr Ondoa said.

According to the minister, the Health Sector Strategic and Investment Plan report for the financial year 2010/11 had varied performance in the health services coverage.

Improvements

She noted that the proportion of households living within walking distances to health facilities is currently estimated at 72 per cent. Adding that availability of medicines and health supplies in health facilities has also improved by almost 70 per cent due to adherence to delivery schedules and an increased funding.

Dr Ondoa cited improving the image of the health sector, efficiency, supervision and monitoring as well as funding as the ministry’s focus to better service delivery.

CEHURD calls upon the Ugandan government to revise the Industrial Properties Bill

Government of Uganda must revise the Industrial Properties Bill so that Ugandans can access medicine easily, the executive director of Center for health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) has said.

 “Uganda’s obligation to have the bill in place by 2013 should be taken advantage of if access to essential medicines is to be protected in the country,” he said. The bill is meant to enable the public access essential medicines any time they need them.

According to Mr Moses Mulumba, the executive director of CEHURD, this bill needs to take full advantage of the flexibilities provided for under the TRIPS Agreement.

While the Bill aims at protecting and encouraging innovators in the country, it has taken advantage of the 2016 transition period for the introduction of pharmaceutical products patent protection. This is over the broad as low developed countries can request for extension to put in place enforcement measures after the 2016 deadline.

The Bill is part of the programme of reform of commercial laws of Uganda to support private sector development, commercial justice reform and to encourage private investment.

 The objective of this bill is to provide for the promotion of inventive and innovative activities, to facilitate the acquisition of technology through the grant and regulations of the patents, utility models, technovations and industrial designs, to provide for the designations of registrar, the powers and functions of the registrar and the establishment of a register of industrial property rights and for incidental and connected purposes.

 The bill also undermines the early entry of generic versions of patented medicines by restricting the preparatory work to scientific research, leaving out generic medicines that tend to be cheaper. Generics will not enter the market as soon as the patent for the originator medicine expires.

 It further requires applicants for a compulsory license to go through the lengthy court processes, yet procedures for granting such a license should be simple and expeditious.   

 The competition bill links intellectual property issues with competition legislations by providing that the prohibition of certain anticompetitive agreements does not restrict the right of any person to restrain any infringement of intellectual property rights granted in Uganda or to impose such reasonable conditions as may be necessary for the purposes of processing or exploiting such intellectual rights.

Government wants maternal health case dismissed

In what could be seen as a U-turn by government on its promise to prosecute health workers who allegedly neglected pregnant mothers resulting in death at various hospitals, the State on Thursday asked the Constitutional Court to dismiss a petition of the aggrieved families.

Two people; Ms Rhoda Kukkiriza and Valente Inziku from Mityana and Arua districts respectively took government to court seeking for a declaration that the the State must abide by its promise to address shortages of doctors and midwives, drug stock-outs as well as the absence of emergency transport that results in the death of 16 women everyday.

The families in the maiden health service petition brought jointly with Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development and Makerere University don Ben Twinomugisha, are seeking a declaration that the acts and omissions by medical workers contravene the Constitution.

But Principal State Attorney Patricia Mutesi argued that a court determination would amount to usurping of power of the Executive and the Parliament to determine on the economic policies.
“The issues raised in the petition do have judicial standards for court to determine that there are no sufficient resources. If court was to base the performance of Uganda to other countries, it is not proper because there is no standard that court can use to determine its findings,” said Ms Mutesi.

“The issues framed in the petition raise political questions thereby prohibiting court from making decisions,” Ms Mutesi added.

However, Mr David Kabanda, the petitioners’ attorney, said the State objection was misconceived because the matter before court is seeking for court interpretation whether the acts and omissions at the various health centres contravene the Constitution.

“Government cannot run away from its obligations of providing maternal health yet it is a signatory to many United Nations (UN) conventions. It is about telling government to abide by the promises to provide effective health services,” Mr Kabanda said.

According to the petition, the manner in which the hospitals and their staff are managed leaves a lot to be desired and cannot ensure the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and it has led to rampant avoidable maternal and infant mortality which contravene the provisions of the law.

“That the unacceptable higher maternal deaths in Uganda which are due to government’s non-provision of basic minimum maternal health care packages and the non-attendance and improper handling by the health workers to expectant mothers are unconstitutional,” reads part of the petition.

Several women have died due to lack of money to buy simple birth kits as health centre managers claim the government does not provide enough material to cater for maternal health.

Government Pleads the Political Question as maternal health Petition is heard

Government has asked Constitutional Court not to hear the maternal death case saying it raises political issues concerning the budget and the allocation of resources.

Ms Patricia Mutesi, a representative from the Attorney General’s office said the issues concerning budget and allocation of government resources are reserve of Cabinet and parliament.

Ms Mutesi said Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine issues which are supposed to be determined by the executive and parliament. She added that review government’s policies and performance in the health sector is a reserve of cabinet and parliament.

The  Centre for Health Human Rights and Development’s executive director Mr Moses Mulumba says; ” We are not in court for a political discussion. What brings us to court is the interpretation of the constitution regarding the governments failure in it’s obligations to provide for basic maternal health commodities in it’s health centers.” However, Court to give its ruling on notice.

The activists took government to Court challenging the non provision of the basic health maternal facilities in government hospitals and unethical behavior of health workers towards expectant mothers which leads to high maternal death rate.

Many of concerned women, men, medical practitioners, stormed the Constitutional Court to hear a case filed against government’s high maternal deaths.The petitioners want court to compel government to compensate families of mothers who have died due to negligence of health workers and none provision of basic maternal health care packages and be compensated because of rights violation.

The activists represented by Kabanda and company advocates took government to court challenging the non provision of the basic health maternal facilities in government hospitals and unethical behavoiur of health workers towards expectant mothers which leads to high maternal death rates since many expectant mothers die each day during child birth.

Mr. Kabanda David who was representing the activists said that a committee was set to implement the right to health. The effect that health is a fundamental human right implies that it is indispensable for the expense of other human rights. The right to maternal, child and reproductive health has to be provided for.

They asked Court to declare the acts of the government unconstitutional.

Luweero struggles to cope with safe births ahead of celebrations

As Luweero District authorities prepare to host the National Safe Motherhood Day on October 17, the health department in the area has been hampered by lack of facilities to handle complications during delivery.
The district deputy health officer and the in charge of Kasana Health Centre IV, Dr Agaba Byamukama, told Daily Monitor that while the national statistics on safe motherhood indicate 435 deaths out of 100,000 mothers in the country, Luweero has limited facilities which has encouraged more referral cases to distant health units.
“We refer about 30 cases with birth complications to other health centres due to limited facilities and inadequate supplies such as cotton wool and anaesthetic drugs for use in the theatre,” Dr Agaba said. The district in conjunction with the Ministry of Health is organising community outreaches to extend immunisation and health care services for both mothers and babies ahead of the celebrations.
According to Dr Agaba, a health fair and a convention on safe motherhood will be conducted to attract resource persons from health partners and international health bodies.
About 180 mothers deliver at Kasana Health Centre while a total of 350 mothers report for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV/Aids Transmissions services at the antenatal clinic every month but the centre has only 15 beds for mothers in the wards.

Source: Daily Monitor
http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1248184/-/bikphbz/-/index.html