The Minister of Health, Dr. Ruth Aceng has revealed that once the ongoing infrastructure developments in the health sector for specialized treatment are completed, Uganda will solve the problem of perennial medical tourism abroad.
She said that the Ministry plans to table before Parliament a Bill to have the Mulago national referral hospital be made a super specialized hospital.
According to the Minister, Uganda spends up to USD 170 million annually on medical tourism, based on documented cases from the Medical Board.
However, an estimated additional USD 70 million is spent by other undocumented individuals who go to countries such as India, USA and U.K.
“Government is investing health infrastructure to improve on the working environment and medical equipment. Many hospitals have been rehabilitated and government is also going ahead to construct specialized hospitals because one way or the other, we all need tertiary care,” Minister Aceng said on Thursday.
She was opening the 2nd annual Grand Doctors Conference at Hotel Africans, a forum that brings together different medical practitioners, organized by the Uganda Medical Association.
Dr. Aceng stated that both the Heart Institute and Cancer Institute at Mulago have already been made autonomous institutions while two other specialized facilities – the Lubowa based International Specialized Hospital and the Regional Centre for Paediatrics Surgery in Entebbe are soon to be commissioned.
Once Mulago hospital is granted autonomous status, it will have the powers to determine its staffing levels, salary for its health personnel as well as do its own recruitment.
“If we continue running Mulago the way we are doing, we won’t create any change. Mulago was designed to be a referral centre for tertiary cases and that is what it ought to be. So, Mulago will be only handling referred cases,” she told participants.
“The principles of this were passed by Cabinet and a Bill is being drafted by the first Parliamentary Council before relevant stakeholders are consulted for their input.”
The Minister said that the draft Bill also incorporates provisions for all tissue transplants to be carried out both at Mulago and the other super specialized hospitals.
With specialized hospitals in place, Aceng hopes that the billions that Ugandans spend abroad seeking medical treatment will be invested in Uganda’s health system and ensure that patients get quality services.
“Super specialized treatment is expensive and whenever we go abroad (India, US, UK) we pay a lot of money. Uganda is spending a lot of money abroad. The hurting bit is that when you get there, chances are that you will be operated on by a Ugandan. We need to bring these Doctors back to Uganda,” she said.
Discussions in Thursday’s conference also dwelt on issues of inadequate health financing, low human resource capacity as well as the disparities in remuneration that continue to hamper provision of quality health care in Uganda.