By Otim Nape
The proposed Specialised Hospital which is now under construction in Lubowa, Wakiso district near Kampala is a ‘black elephant’, that’s according to Dr. Ekwaro Obuku, the president of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA).
Dr. Obuku explained that he used the ‘black elephant’ reference because the proposed hospital would have little impact in improving the health of Ugandans because Uganda Medical Association, whose members are the leading medical experts in the country, were not consulted in the conception of the project. He also warned that the $379m, approximately 1.4 trillion shillings that government had approved to support the 264-bed hospital project, would go to waste.
The controversial head of the medical association made the remarks this Wednesday 7th July 2019 morning while appearing on NBS TV’s Morning Breeze programme hosted by Simon Kaggwa Njala, the equally controversial self-confessed member of the opposition Democratic Party (DP).
The discussion followed the incident on Tuesday morning when Police officers and Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel blocked Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Acheng, health ministry Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwiine and members of the parliamentary committee on national economy led by Nakaseke North MP Syda Bbumba from accessing the site of the Super Specialised Hospital in Lubowa, off the Kampala-Entebbe highway.
In April this year, Parliament approved a loan guarantee of 1.4 trillion shillings to Finasi/ROKO, a Special Purpose Pehicle (SPV) for the construction of the hospital under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Finasi will run the hospital for 20 years then hand over to government under an arrangement called Build–Operate–Transfer (BOT). This is a form of project financing, wherein a private entity receives a concession from the private or public sector to finance, design, construct, own, and operate a facility stated in the concession contract. This enables the project proponent to recover its investment, operating and maintenance expenses in the project
Dr. Obuku compared the Lubowa hospital project to the Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal Hospital which was commissioned in October 2018 by Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda. Obuku described the women’s hospital as a ‘white elephant,’ arguing that it is a beautiful facility that the majority of Ugandans cannot access because of its high service fees.
However, during the launch of the facility, State Minister for Health in charge of General Duties Sarah Opendi said the Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal Hospital would only handle complicated cases referred to it by other health facilities such as Kawempe Hospital, which is a part of Mulago National Referral Hospital and other hospitals run by the private sector
Dr. Obuku said Uganda Medical Association had suggested that Government creates a credit facility, of about US100m with existing private hospitals such as Nakasero, International Hospital Kampala (IHK), Case Hospital and the Orthopaedic Hospital in Kumi. He added that these hospitals can be supported to buy critically needed equipment.
He added that the Uganda Medical Association has a petition pending in Parliament in which they had asked the legislators, before the approved the 1.4 trillion shilling loan, to instead use such money to improve services in the 15 regional referral hospitals across the country, train and hire more specialists and critical staff in the regional referral hospitals, strengthen primary health care and improve services and staffing in Health Centre IIIs and IV.
“Something going on at Lubowa is of less interest to Ugandans but everything to the big boys. I can guarantee you that the project won’t reduce our poor health indicators like maternal deaths and child mortality,” he said
According to Dr. Obuku, who did not have kind words for Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury in the finance ministry Keith Muhakanizi whose letter apparently caused the denial of access to the MPs to the Lubowa project site, the proposed specialised Lubowa hospital will not lead to the stated objective of saving the billions of dollars VIPs such as ministers, MPs and others use to travel abroad for treatment. Instead, he said money will be waste because the anticipated services at Lubowa will duplicate those to be provided at Mulago National Referral Hospital where renovation works are yet to be completed.
“Uganda needs specialised medical care. Whatever is being lined up for Lubowa was already lined up for Mulago Hospital; this is a duplication and wastage of resources,” he said
According to Dr, Obuku, if you look at the health sector today, Members of Parliament are using taxpayers’ money but the taxpayer doesn’t have any medical insurance scheme.
“That’s why we are advocating for aspects like health insurance schemes to guarantee a pool of resources to help more people,” he said.
“I’m certain that the investment won’t have an impact on the issues that affect a developing country like Uganda. The [high] number of women dying [from pregnancy related complications or while delivering] reflects the status of our country.”
Speaking like a prophet, Dr. Obuku said Lubowa Specialised Hospital would be constructed because the political decision had been made.
“If 90% of the Lubowa Hospital money is still available, I think the country is better off reinvesting this money in human capital to meet the population needs. Someone doesn’t have to travel to Lubowa for services. The Operation Wealth Creation President Museveni should have done is allocate resources to health things, education and food security,” he said
“Our ideas for this money was to create a credit facility for private initiatives owned by Ugandans. We can have the same concept of Buy Uganda Build Uganda in the health sector.” (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).