Monday, August 20, 2012


Porters, askaris treat patients in hospitals By MERCY NALUGO Posted Monday, August 20 2012 at 01:00 In Summary The report by a health monitoring unit set up by President Museveni says medical workers spend more time in their private clinics, leaving unqualified support staff to treat patients. KAMPALA. The next time you visit a government health facility, you might want to ask the health worker about their training and qualifications. Askaris and porters are running some government health facilities in the country and treating patients in the absence of qualified health workers, according to a new monitoring report. The report by the Medicines and Health Service Delivery Monitoring Unit (MHSDMU) released last week chronicles widespread cases of absenteeism and lack of controls that, it says, have put lives at risk. Presenting the report to the parliamentary Health Committee, the unit’s head, Dr Diana Atwine, said they had also discovered more than 900 illegal clinics and drug shops across the country, with Kamuli District alone accounting for over 412. The clinics are said to have been in operation for eight years. The report also shows that qualified health workers spend more time in their private clinics and attending workshops, leaving unqualified support staff to treat patients. “Due to absenteeism, some health facilities are left to be run by unqualified staff for example in Burere Health Centre III, the health facility had been left in the hands of an askari to do clinical work,” Dr Atwine said. The report also notes that askaris and porters were found dispensing drugs to patients in Nankandulo Health Centre IV in Kamuli District and Bagezza Health Centre III in Mubende District. Dr Atwine told MPs that absenteeism is at 52 per cent. “And since they in most cases are the ones with the highest level of skills, their absence deprives people of their services.” Share This Story The report also notes that many health workers had left for further studies without informing district officials and continued to receive salaries without working. Absenteeism by health workers has long been linked to low pay, inadequate staffing and poor supervision and the country’s doctor-to-patient ratio is one of the lowest in Africa but this is the first time a monitoring report is made public to show the extent of the problem. More rot Set up by President Museveni about a year ago, the monitoring unit also found illegal nursing training schools offering courses that are not relevant to the health system, and some are run by directors with forged certificates of operation. These were operating with the consent of district officials some of whom were accepting bribes to enable them operate. In one case, an ex-porter at St. Francis Buluba Hospital forged a certificate as a nursing assistant and set up a cancer clinic and nurses training school in Mayuge. “He was convicted and charged Shs500,000 which to us is not comparable to the damage inflicted to the community,” the report notes. The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago, said yesterday that his ministry is aware of such challenges and is working hard to address them. “We are aware some of our health workers attend to private clinics but our work is to make sure we put some measures. The best would be to monitor them more which we haven’t managed to do,” Dr Lukwago said. “Doctors don’t attend to the hospital 24 hours every day so when they get some time they go and work elsewhere after all they will also be treating Ugandans; the problem is that we have those who have left duty for private work completely.”

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