Uganda is deep into the second month of the new financial year and nobody seems to have noticed a very important item that the minister of finance forgot to provide for in her budget.
I have read and re-read the budget — the corrected version sent out after some editing was done – but not a single shilling was allocated to the two main national referral hospitals.
In an unforgivable oversight, the honourable minister omitted to provide funds for Uganda’s main referral hospitals, namely Kenyatta Hospital and Nairobi Hospital.
It is difficult to understand why she didn’t allocate at least $10 million to these two hospitals when it is has become clear over the past several years that they are Uganda’s main referral hospitals.
How does she expect the managers of the two hospitals that are so crucial for the treatment of important Ugandans to plan for treating our VIPs if she does not advance them enough money?
Our leaders, who have designated the two Nairobi hospitals as the Uganda’s referral hospitals through their actions, know very well that even if the bills for treating them in Nairobi are eventually paid, the hospital managements need a lot of money upfront to stock for the requirements of the many powerful Ugandan patients in advance, since they are not planned for in the Kenyans’ health delivery projections.
And the Ugandan leaders by now know how expensive treatment in Nairobi is, so they should not kill the two hospitals by starving them of advance funding they way they killed Kampala’s former referral hospital of Mulago.
The other day, Ugandan opposition leader Norbert Mao spent weeks undergoing treatment in Nairobi and a rumour went around that the government was footing his bills, a rumour his Democratic Party vehemently denied.
Because our beloved Ugandan leaders and their families must get treated in Nairobi, they should listen to our plea and advance enough money to the big Kenyan hospitals so that there will always be enough drugs for them when they are admitted there.
But no bad condition is permanent. So it is with great confidence that we believe Uganda’s finance minister will next year allocate sufficient funds to Kenyatta and Nairobi Hospitals so they can prepare adequately for receiving patients from Uganda.
If she does not do this, a crisis that she cannot handle could hit our country when a VIP gets flown to Nairobi only to find the hospitals there unprepared to receive him or her. How will she face her colleagues in Cabinet if one of them dies on a stretcher in the arrival area of Nairobi Hospital as they try to create room for him?
In this regard, the minister should consider financing the construction of a well-equipped, stocked and staffed hospital on the Kenyan side of the Busia or Malaba border with an airstrip and helipad so that Ugandan VIP patients don’t have to fly all the way to Nairobi, but can still get treated in Kenya, as the unwritten policy requirement is today.
With such a referral hospital so close to our border, we could even have some Ugandan doctors working there and driving back home to Tororo after duty.
Joachim Buwembo is a Knight International Fellow for development journalism. E-mail: [email protected]