By Aminah Nabuule
The Ministry of Health is requesting additional Shs1.7Trn to fight the second wave of COVDI-19.
The request was made by Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health while appearing before Parliament’s COVID Taskforce Committee on Wednesday. Aceng also warned the public against insulting health practitioners in the name of demanding accountability, saying these insults are demotivating health workers.
“The Negative propaganda, fake news, misinformation, leading to a demotivated workforce, insults to health workers is causing us a big problem because they will eventually start abandoning patients,” warned Aceng.
However, Aceng said that the Ministry of Health requires an additional Shs1.7Trn to fight the second COVD-19 wave but of this, only Shs461Bn has been received.
According to the Ministry of Health, the money required will go towards the continuity of essential services that requires Shs114Bn, while Shs445Bn will be spent on procurement of COVID vaccination.
The Ministry also needs Shs808Bn to cater for logistics, Shs70Bn for strategic information while risk communication is estimated to consume Shs68Bn, care management Shs93Bn and laboratory services Shs85Bn.
The criticism referenced by Minister Aceng followed the release of the March 2021 report by Auditor General, John Muwanga on how funds allocated to fight COVID-19 were spent by the Government.
Asked by lawmakers on how much it will cost to have the 22million eligible Ugandans to be vaccinated, Minister Aceng informed Parliament that she doesn’t know when the country will be able to receive the 11million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been acquired by the country.
She said that the Government decided to purchase the Vaccines through the COVAX facility and even though they have paid and concluded all the legal requirements she doesn’t know when the country will receive the Vaccines.
The Minister explained, “We have 9 million doses of vaccines, this is coming from the COVAX facility and has been paid off by the Government and it is waiting, we have concluded all the legal requirements because we are required to file legal documents with the manufacturers including the unification requirement.”
Uganda is expecting 286,800doses of Astrazeneca Vaccine from the Covax facility, 300,000doses of sinovac and next month they will receive another 688,800 doses of Astrazenaca Vaccine. The government has also purchased another 2million doses of Johnson and Johnson through the African Union.
Asked by MPs why the Government doesn’t purchase vaccines from the open market, Aceng said it would be costly noting that Astrazenaca Vaccine from the COVAX facility is sold at USD4 per dose while the open market goes for USD15 per dose.
She also added that the Russian Vaccine goes for USD29 per dose while the Chinese Vaccine Sinovac goes for USD20 per dose which says is way expensive when you compare those rates through the COVAX facility.
“Our hands are tied. The vaccines producing companies have locked out poorer countries and only given vaccines to rich countries. Those we are getting as donations were bought by those rich countries with access,” she stressed.
However, Abdu Katuntu, Chairperson of Parliament Taskforce Committee said Uganda is already spending Shs100bn on enforcing the lockdown and feeding the population which money would have been used to buy vaccines.
The Minister also defended the high covid19 treatment charges by private hospitals noting that the costs are not so different from that of the public hospitals, especially in Mulago hospital.
It should be recalled that Uganda Healthcare Federation informed Parliament that private health hospitals spend an average of Shs3.5M daily on any COVID Patient in the Intensive Care Unit.
Of this money, Shs1,115,000 goes towards drugs, Shs805,000 for health workers attending to the patient, Shs560,000 bed and ventilators, Shs245,000 administration and Shs35,000 on imaging.
Grace Kiwanuka, President of the Federation said the COVID pandemic has driven costs of utility higher with hospitals spending Shs13m up from shs 9 Million they used to spend, while electricity bills increased from Shs45m to Shs75m.
While reacting to this submission, Minister Aceng defended the high cost of COVID treatment in private hospitals saying Mulago Hospital is spending an average of Shs3m per patient daily.
“We engaged a consultant to calculate for us the cost of managing a patient in our ICU in Mulago, incidentally, the costs aren’t different from that of the private. Every patient in the ICU takes about Shs3M a day in Mulago. So the costs aren’t any different, they are nearly the same, except that where the Government is concerned, the costs go unnoticed.”
She clarified that although all the regional referral hospitals have got ICU beds most of them are not functional due to a lack of critical care staff because the country has not invested much in training ICU care critical nurses.
“Procurement is ongoing for 10,000 patient beds whose funding will be provided in the first quarter of this financial year, the remaining beds will be procured when funding is available. Although regional referral hospitals have ICU Beds, they aren’t all functional due to lack of critical care anesthesiologists, intensivists and ICU critical care nurses.”
Asked about the shs29bn that the public donated to the government Aceng said the money went to OPM and MoF.
“We were guided to use it to procure cars for surveillance, construction of a blood bank in Soroti and 2 border health units in Vurra and Cyanika,” she clarified and hastened to add that it was used to buy cars and not oxygen because “WHO was hiring vehicles for us to do COVID surveillance in the districts, which was very expensive and unsustainable.
So H.E advised that we use this money to buy double cabins to support districts to do this work, and other construction works.”
On the procurement for these double cabins, Dr Diana Atwine said a total of 282 double cabins from Toyota at a negotiated total of about 24.6bn were procured.
“As we talk 121 of these are in the country being cleared. The balance is to construct a Blood bank at Soroti RRH and border post health units at Cyanika and Vurra border posts.”