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The news of Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Uganda’s parliament admission at Nakasero Hospital and later being transferred to Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi for medical treatment brought back a painful memory of my late aunt’s experience at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

I remember around 2017, my late aunt a cancer patient went to the cancer institute at around 6am in the morning and spent the whole day there. When she finally got to see the doctor at around 9pm it was too late, the doctor who was removing his hand gloves told her that she was to be seen the next day. The next day she still could not see the doctor and decided to go back to the village.

When her condition got worse while in Lira, I and other family members got into a debate on whether we should have our aunt brought back to the Cancer Institute or not because her past experience at the facility took the entire day and she was not attended to. That debate left me wondering why we have national referral hospitals just in names and not in functions.

History has it that the late president Amin, Lady Sarah Nalule Kisosonkole and Sir Tito Winyi IV (former Omukama of Bunyoro) were at one time admitted at Mulago National Referral Hospital to receive medical treatment. It was also reported at one time in the newspapers that the Rtd. Bishop of Busoga Diocese, the Rev. Cyprian Bamwoze, who had spent a week bedridden at Kamuli District Hospital, declined transfer to Mulago National Referral Hospital in order to show confidence in Kamuli district hospital.

Why should then a section of persons be given special treatment by government in the names of being ‘Very Important Persons’ (VIPs) and given privileges to access the best medical services in ‘uptown’ private medical facilities and abroad. What about others who are not ‘Very Important Persons’? The government should perform its core minimum obligation and ensure that its public health care facilities function by among others, providing it with enough human resources and tool of work.

This also brings in another question of how the proposed national health insurance scheme will function and how public health facilities will compete with the ‘uptown’ private health facilities. If government already prefers to take its VIPs to private facilities and abroad, how then will the beneficiaries of the scheme have confidence to access medical treatment from public health facilities?

In the words of Solomon Serwanja, a journalist with NBS TV “injustice in our society will continue as long as we all remain too afraid to lose the little privileges”. The VIPs should not be afraid to challenge government to do more for the public health facilities.

By Komakech Job

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