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Will Cuban doctors solve the service delivery issues?

Uganda has, in the recent days, been embroiled in a ruckus from a proposal by government to hire Cuban doctors who would earn Shs 5.4m a month each.

This has attracted divergent views from the public, including the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), who might have “tickled” government the wrong way during their standoff.

One wonders when government realized it had a shortage of specialists, considering that the same does not appear in the health sector strategic plan.

There hasn’t been sufficient stakeholder engagement on this issue, and this is partly explained by the cold feet developed by UMA. If Cuban doctors arrive in a country known for its hospitality, yet with this “animosity” not settled, they are likely to choke on and be bogged down by intrigue, office politics, language barrier and cultural differences.

It is frustrating working in a country where one is not welcome, especially by fellow professionals. UMA has valid concerns which should have been addressed by government.

Listening to doctors speak out on this matter, one is persuaded by their argument on wage differentiation, which
is not only unfair, but also falls short of the 2010 World Health Organisation Code of Practice on the Recruitment of International Personnel.

Much as the code is a voluntary instrument, it requires that physicians who migrate be paid the same amount as domestic physicians of the same rank.

Basic human resource management principles should inform decision makers that it is unfair to pay these visiting physicians, some of whom may be lower in rank than our eminent senior consultants, a higher salary than our own whose persistent cry for better wages has been a cat-and-mouse game with the state.

It is not surprising that the private health sector is booming because they have modern machinery to treat patients. However, most government health centers lack basic facilities and supplies to diagnose and treat patients.

Thus, importing doctors may not solve the issue. As a matter of priority, government should establish an annual renovation budget for hospitals and repair faulty equipment. Countries with developed health systems have mandatory annual renovation budgets.

The government should address issues that cause medical specialists to shun public health facilities for their private clinics.

Moonlighting by some medical officials is caused by inadequate pay, and creating a special package for foreigners over our own trained doctors is absurd!

Cissy Kagaba,
Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda

Turn calamities into tourism opportunities

Tourism is a monumental enterprise; also referred to as a visitor economy. In developed tourist destinations, even calamities such as the 2010 Bududa landslides would be a big tourism opportunity.

In China, for example, Tien Nam Square was a scene of killings now converted into a popular tourist destination.
In the 1880s, Julie Ward, a daughter to an American tycoon, was abducted and murdered in Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

A legal battle followed for over a decade, but Kenyan professionals were concentrating on diverting the message into tourist numbers.

That is why there is this adage: “The brave eat grass, victors bag trophies while the faint pray.”

Surely, Uganda’s tourism marketers are the faint type!

Did I hear that some were mourning the passing on of Zakayo, the chimp? Four tourist-oriented events happened almost at the same time last month: the demise of Zakayo who left a widow and two heirs – Matooke and Aluma – the eleven lions killed in Queen Elizabeth national park, the groundbreaking for the construction of Hotel and Tourism institute by Minister Ephraim Kamuntu, and the 2018 Commonwealth Games medalists.

All these are tourist marketing tools. During Labour day celebrations, President Museveni should have been advised to strategically award medals to the Zakayo family.

He should have also instructed Uganda Wildlife Authority to erect huge monuments for the 11 lions at the scene of their death in Kasese.

Zakayo’s monuments should also be placed on Entebbe road towards Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and one at Uganda museum.

A monument for the Nametsi landslide victims should be erected at the circumcision (imbalu) site at Mutoto in Mbale, and a mausoleum in Bulucheke, Bududa district.

That is how tourism works. We do not mourn; we take advantage of calamities.

Nabendeh Wamoto,
(0776-658433 / 0752-658433)

Invest in solar power to create more jobs

Ever since Bumali Kakaire, a youth from Waranga village in Iganga district, got solar power, his life has improved.

He now operates a hair salon, charges mobile phones at a fee, accesses information by listening to radio and has installed nightlights.

Recently, government set aside Shs 2.2 trillion for free rural hydropower connection to add more people to the national grid.

This connection, however, will burden rural communities with monthly bills since majority of Ugandans are living below the poverty line. Electricity consumption is still low, yet investment made is higher than the economic returns.

The high cost of power tariffs is a fundamental challenge to accessing electricity. Government needs to address this. Goal seven of the UN’s Sustain- able Development Goals (SDGs) is about ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

Access to cheap, clean and affordable energy is, indeed, critical as it can enable attainment of eight of the 17 SDGs.

These include poverty alleviation, zero hunger, good health and well- being, quality education, gender equality, clean water, sanitation and affordable and clean energy and combating effects of climate change.

Therefore, I appeal to government to increase investment in solar power and provide affordable energy to rural communities and create employment to people like Kakaire.

Cyrus Kabaale,
Research associate.


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