20 September 2017

Uganda: To Improve Services, Ministers Should Go to Naguru Hospital

editorial

Following persistent reports of corruption in government health facilities, particularly at Naguru hospital, the minister of state for Health in charge of General Duties, Sarah Opendi, took it upon herself to find out the truth.

Disguised as an ordinary patient, the minister arrived on a boda boda and feigned some illness. The nurse attending to her asked for Shs 5,000 before anything could be done while the laboratory technician demanded Shs 150,000 for a blood test.

With that, the minister had confirmed her fears. Ms Opendi must be commended for picking interest in service delivery under her docket and going an extra mile to establish the truth.

If all ministers and other government officials took their work as seriously as Opendi often does, service delivery would go up as corruption goes down.

However, it's not as simple as that. Health workers in Uganda are some of the poorest-paid government employees, and this has partly fuelled corruption.

While poor pay should never be used to justify corruption, the latter is harder to fight amid the former. Besides, our public health facilities should be equipped to serve all Ugandans irrespective of their standing in society.

Having two or even three categories of Ugandans; whereby one goes abroad at taxpayers' expense for simple treatment, another goes to the best private hospitals in the country, while the other goes to corrupt public health facilities is sad.

Minister Opendi needn't disguise herself if Naguru hospital was well equipped to attend to all Ugandans of all walks of life, including ministers.

She and her colleagues would have visited from time to time, and most likely the services would be better and the workers less inclined to bribery.

Otherwise, if government facilities are not good enough for its own officials, we shouldn't be surprised that they are a bastion of corruption and the services are wanting.

This applies to other sectors too. If public schools are not good enough for ministers and MPs' children, no one should be surprised that they are not delivering the right outcomes.

Uganda

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