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A plea to recruit specialists for Uganda’s ailing healthcare system

In a stark revelation, the recent report by the Uganda Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has shed light on the severe shortage of medical specialists in public hospitals, painting a grim picture of the nation’s healthcare landscape.

The consequences of this deficiency are dire, leading to preventable deaths, prolonged illnesses, and exorbitant spending on medical tourism. The government’s excuse of insufficient funds to pay specialists is not only disheartening but also appears incongruent with the sizable budget allocated to less critical sectors.

The health sector, a cornerstone of national development, is gasping for breath, grappling with an alarming scarcity of specialists. The statistics presented in the EOC report are nothing short of a national emergency. The deficit in key specialities such as geriatric medicine, physiatrics, allergists, immunologists, rheumatologists and pathologists is not merely a statistic; it represents the lives lost, prolonged suffering and financial burdens placed on the citizens.

The absence of specialists has led to a troubling trend of medical tourism for those fortunate enough to have political connections, while the majority suffer the consequences of a neglected healthcare system.

The irony of a nation spending Shs 450 billion annually on treating “Very Important Persons” abroad, while its own citizens lack access to basic healthcare services, is a bitter pill to swallow. The right to life, a fundamental human right, should not be compromised due to bureaucratic apathy or misallocation of resources.

One cannot ignore the elephant in the room: a bloated parliament with 529 members drawing substantial salaries and a plethora of presidential aides and district administrators earning handsomely.

This raises serious questions about the government’s priorities, as health and education, the bedrock of a nation’s progress, seem to be relegated to the sidelines.

It is high time for the ruling NRM party to reassess its priorities and address the critical shortage of specialists in national and regional referral hospitals, as well as in lower health centers.

The excuse of inadequate funds for specialist salaries is untenable when juxtaposed against the extravagant expenditure on political figures. The right to quality healthcare is not a privilege but a fundamental right that should be guaranteed to every citizen.

The government must make a concerted effort to allocate funds judiciously, ensuring that the health sector receives the attention it deserves. Recruitment of specialists, fair compensation, and the establishment of a robust healthcare infrastructure are investments in the nation’s future.

Ugandans deserve better, and it is the responsibility of the government to prioritize the well-being of its people over political expediency. The time to act is now, for the right to life is sacrosanct, and no citizen should be denied access to quality healthcare due to governmental negligence.


0 #1 Dr Simon Sseguya 2023-11-18 20:56
Medical specialties are in all fields of medicine involving solving a patients health related problems following an assessment related to that area of specialisation.

It is a gross mischaracterisation for the Ministry of Health to continue believing that only holders of MBChB and related qualifications are the only ones who can be recognized as specialists.

This is the case today yet we have many nurses and pharmacists who desire to practice in a specialty where they can enjoy a fulfilling professional career path while contributing to the realization of improved health outcomes. I appreciate that the practice of pharmacy can be either product oriented (non-clinical) or patient-centered (clinical).

If only physicians and surgeons remain the nationally recognized specialists, how can Uganda expect to achieve the high quality of health service delivery that our political class always run to every time they catch a cold at enormous expense to the Ugandan taxpayer?
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0 #2 Dr Simon Sseguya 2023-11-18 21:08
A Clinician is defined as any health professional who directly interacts with a patient to conduct an assessment of the patient's health related problems and design, implement and evaluate solutions to those problems.

Hence, it is not logical for the technocrats at the Ministry of Health and that of Public Service to continue thinking that it's only physicians and surgeons who are clinicians and that they are the only specialties which the Govt should recognize.

Every health practitioner has a right to practice his/her profession in a way that translates into a fulfilling career without suffering undue loss of potential income in relation to other professions contributing to improved health outcomes.
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