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Ugandan hospitals struggle with lack of specialists

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-01-20 09:59
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Ugandan health officials wearing protective gear disinfect the Nakawa open-air market as part of the measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), within in Nakawa division of Kampala, Uganda, April 17, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Directors of regional government referral hospitals in Uganda have raised concerns over shortages of specialists and consultants, which they said has resulted in poor service delivery.

In a statement published by the Ugandan Parliament on Tuesday following the directors' Monday meeting with the Parliamentary Health Committee, leaders called on the government to prioritize budgeting for the recruitment of specialists and consultants in the 2022/2023 financial year.

Winnie Serwanja, principal administrator of Lira Regional Referral Hospital in northern Uganda, said the institution has only one consultant of the required 11.

Serwanja said the lack of specialists has forced the hospital to have few outpatient specialized clinics.

"We have a crisis with senior consultants and medical officers special grade," she said.

Serwanja said the hospital is still operating under the 2005 staff structure, which is limiting some of the services that the hospital should be offering.

Emmanuel Tugaineyo, director of Mbale Regional Referral Hospital in eastern Uganda, said the hospital has only 12 out of the 26 required specialists, despite having the largest catchment area serving 16 districts.

"Our current staffing is at 86.4 percent, but these are mainly lower cadres. We are still having challenges with specialists," Tugaineyo said.

Benedicto Watmon, director of Moroto Regional Referral Hospital in northeastern Uganda, said the hospital currently has four out of the required 25 specialists.

Peter Mukobi, director of Hoima Regional Referral Hospital in western Uganda, attributed the absence of specialists to poor pay.

Help needed

Apart from the lack of specialists, the directors also cited other challenges that require urgent intervention including drug stock outs, nonfunctional intensive care units, shortage of oxygen, power outages, dilapidated staff houses and water shortages.

John Kamara, member of parliament for Bufumbira County North, warned that government hospitals will continue facing a shortage of specialists, as long as they are not motivated.

Uganda has started giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to priority groups as the country grapples with a surge in infection levels.

Health ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona told Xinhua that eligible categories include people aged 50 and above, health workers, teachers, religious leaders, cultural leaders, security personnel, media, and drivers and conductors of passenger service vehicles.

As of Jan 15, Uganda had administered 12.2 million vaccine doses to its targeted 22 million people, or half of the country's total population, according to its health ministry.

The country has so far recorded more than 153,000 COVID-19 cases and about 3,300 deaths.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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