Only 50 per cent of Ugandans seek treatment from government facilities as the first option, new research has revealed. The current population of Uganda is 45,727,832 as 2019, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
While presenting a Sauti za Wananchi research brief titled, Ugandans Experience and Opinions on Health Services, Ms Marie Nanyanzi, the programme officer at Twaweza, a non governmental organisation, revealed that the number of those who go to government facilities has remained stable since 2017 but the number who first seek assistance from private facility has risen slightly.
"The number of those who first seek assistance from a private facility has risen from 24 per cent in 2017 to 29 per cent in 2018," Ms Nanyanzi said yesterday.
The findings were released by Twaweza are based on data collected from 1,913 respondents across Uganda in October 2018.
The research brief further explains that citizens in rural areas (53 per cent), poorer citizens (50-60 percent), and those with lower levels of education (57 per cent) are more likely to use government facilities compared to half of the population.
Wealthier citizens (39 per cent) and those with secondary or higher education (37 per cent) are more likely to turn first to a private health facility compared to three out of 10 (29 per cent) of the population as a whole.
However, the research brief does not clearly indicate reasons as to why patients have shunned government health facilities, but states the most common problems are with the facilities.
Some of these include lack of medicines or other supplies (78 per cent), absent doctors (44 per cent), long waiting time/queue (81 per cent), dirty facilities (29 per cent) among others.
Mr Aggrey Ssanya, the general secretary of Medical and Health Workers Union, has urged government to change some of the health policies and increase funding to address some of the issues.
The research findings indicate that one out of three patients attending government facilities, are given prescription but not medicine, one out of five children under five do not receive their entitlement to free treatment, a similar proportion of patients aged over five (60 per cent) are charged for treatment.
Mr Ssanya advised government to change to pull policy rather than the push policy to address the issue of lack of medicine.
"The biggest problem is our policy, initially health units used to get allocation from Ministry of Finance or Health, to buy their drugs, this is what is called the pull system, but the policy changed that all medicine must come from National Medical Stores (NMS)," Mr Ssanya said.
"But NMS is not big enough to handle all the units in the country because there are many, now what they have resorted to is push system, this has caused problems.
In the process some medicine is not used and will expire, but pull policy you get priority," he added
He also urged government to increase the health sector funding to 15 per cent as per the Maputo protocol, for the units to purchase the drugs that they want to avoid rationing of drugs.
Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior public relations officer at the Ministry of Health, welcomed the findings but said they needed time to internalise them with the actual data at the ministry.