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.