Minister for Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng has called for more efforts in improving the quality of health care in Uganda which she said remains far below the desired standards.
The Minister was speaking on Tuesday at the 5th National Quality Improvement Conference held at Hotel Africana in Kampala. The conference was themed on strengthening health system blocks using quality improvement approaches to maximize health outcomes.
Uganda has in recent years registered some gains in the health sector including a reduction in; total fertility rate from 6.2 to 5.4, infant mortality from 54 to 43 per 1,000 live births, under 5 mortality from 90 to 64 per 1,000 live births, and malaria prevalence from 40% to 19% in last five years.
Nonetheless, Minister Aceng says that a big portion of Ugandans remain unsatisfied with the services they get from government health facilities. She cited issues to do with long hours of waiting by patients and a bad attitude exhibited by the health workers towards clients.
Quoting the National Service Delivery Survey conducted by Uganda Bureau of Statistics in 2015, the Minister said the proportion of households that found the overall quality of services provided by government health facilities as being good was only 46%.
“Households and communities have also continued to rate our government health workers very poorly. Clients complain of waiting time at health facilities (48%) and lack of attention and respect by health workers (91%).
Dr Aceng said; “Staying on the current trajectory of business as usual will not suffice to meet these new demands. We need a high-quality health system that is valued and trusted by the people we serve”.
She also stated that quality should not be the purview of the elite or an aspiration for some distant future. Quality should be the DNA of our health system, she added.
The issue of poor health care in government health facilities has consistently featured prominently among the points of criticism by the political opposition. They argue that tax payers’ money is being wasted by government who seek medical care abroad and in private facilities instead of investing into the critical sector (health).
According to the Minister, high quality health system must cater for the population and their health needs and expectations, but should also entail aspects of governance, partnerships, workforce numbers, skills, data, and tools.
“We need to develop capacity to measure and use data to learn. A high quality health system should be for the people, it should be equitable and resilient, efficient which Uganda’s system is still far from,” she said.
For a long time, issues to do with meagre salaries and understaffing within public health facilities have been major incumberances to the delivery of quality health care. A few months ago, government increased the salaries of medics as well as the budget for supply for essential medicines and blood.
It followed a sustained strike by medics who decried the poor conditions in which they worked, low pay and inadequacy in basic medical supplies.