We should all invest and get vested in our health.

While there have been cases of drug stock outs, other drugs are also getting expired. Ministry of Health is set to destroy about 1200 to 1500 tonnes of expired drugs, worth billions of shillings. To add salt to the wound, more tax payers’ money roughly 9.3 billion will be required to dispose off these expired drugs. Yes as much as 5% of all pharmaceutical in supply chain end up not used, we need a more responsive system. This also comes at the time when we have news of fake Hepatitis B vaccines. A lot to ask and ponder! Who imports in these fake drugs? Rampant drug stock outs yet we have tonnes of unused expired drugs! Is an organised ‘expired drugs’ scam where every year drugs are checked in and out while greedy mafias are assured of a cut of Ministry of Health budget? Is it poor planning and procurement system at National Medical Stores (NMS)? Are they (NMS) are taking in real time statistics in the change in disease pattern and dynamics? At the start of the year, Mr President was bragging about how Ugandans are no longer dying from malaria but diseases of the ‘rich’ like ‘sukali ne pressure’ (hypertension and diabetes)! Is it about the time Artificial intelligence came in to help our planners make better projections!
Personally I felt a huge disconnect just almost a fortnight back, a forty year mother wrapped in a lesu, with Chinese afrikan shoes (those who know this copycat-but-cheaper brand know them) walked in with her 10 year old son. Noticeable the son had swollen feet and we were to work him up clinically (without labs) to congestive cardiac failure. In other words his heart was not pumping well hence fluid was building up in his feet making them swell. He urgently needed to be started on anti-failure drugs. His mother, with age fit that I could call her my mum, had spent the last 2000 Ug shs in her purse on a matatu to hospital. I could feel the helplessness in this lady. Charting the drugs in a file, of what could get his sixth borne fine, was not enough! Having knowledge of the drug but not access to it was mockery of the quality healthcare our politicians go out selling. But something had to be done. We did a kind of quick car wash thing among nurses and doctors where we raised Ug shs 5000; enough for one day shot of his heart drugs.
On a one way ticket, she had boarded a matatu with her ill son to hospital. This mother didn’t hold anyone even herself accountable for a sad day at emergency without meds.
We need to make our health care more accountable with empathy at the core. I doubt this 40 yr old had ever imagined herself one day stranded in a hospital with barely enough to survive. Do you ever? Didn’t she have a daily income or a living? Who did she vote for her area leader? Why did she vote for that person? Did she hold on her vote and insist that she will cast for someone who will ensure there are adequate and accessible emergency drugs at her nearest health centre? Did she even know with her voice and vote she can speak out?

My mind lingered to the thought that if she put away Ug 100shs away every day in an account. If a pool of money was created in real time, everyday, to be used to save more of her kind leveraging on numbers, mutual trust and empathy! Serious countries like USA invest up to 18 % of their national budget into health. I call them ‘serious’ because they understand that a healthy population is a powerhouse of an economic transformation. We all need to invest and get vested in our health at all levels. How sad is it to leave our lives and how we can save them in the hands of politicians who always playing tune to the loudest noise in town! Health is life; we need to get pay up to empower ourselves and sleeve in and hold entire systems accountable to our needs. Imagine a penny of this collective fund collected by many was used to buy drugs (which expire) or fake vaccines: just the noise made by masses could send perpetrators into panic, who would be gladly seeking police custody to get away from public justice.
As the discussion for the Uganda National Insurance Health Fund lingers on, we need to think to how the common Uganda can be able to access quality health care without impoverishment. Health workers should be at the core of health transformation. At a community level, all of us be a part of pro-active village team emphasizing daily healthy habits in our spaces of influence. Medical interns have been at the heart and will be for a long time of our public health care system. I see how a part of this collective fund can be used to remunerate front line health workers like medical interns and nurses for the extra time and effort beyond normal call of duty. Imagine when you have been hit by a car and you’re unconscious, being helped by strangers! Some of it can be used to always ensure a carton of emergency drugs in life saving situations. When the time of need arises, we can always be there for one another.

The writer is the Speaker, Uganda National Medical Interns 2017-2018.

4 thoughts on “We should all invest and get vested in our health.”

  1. Nice piece. I think its one field the Ministry is taking for granted, but also, National Drug Authority should have a say on fake drugs. How do they get into the country in the first place! The old styles of collecting data (HMIS) are also tedious, IT would do better in capturing data and also save time of analysis.

    1. As citizens, we have to take the responsibility of health care system in our hands and throw away the unpractical political free health care (championed by greedy politicians) and embrace National insurance or cost sharing.
      We have to get out of this death trap (“FREE HEALTH CARE”).

  2. A lot has been said about equality, operation wealth creation,fenatu gagawale, equity, investment all that crap whoever non of these can can ever be achieved without a firm health system.
    Take this from me, health is politics and health is the way of living. with our OOP in the skys trust me uganda will grow at a slow pace.
    so less embrace a national health system with an insurance cover, this will be the best gift ugandans will get.
    Health is investment.

    1. National Health Insurance system has been working well so far in Tanzania for the last 3 years since it’s introduction, maybe it could change something in Uganda too. But I didn’t understand somewhere whether the problem is poverty or lack of drugs?

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