In Summary
  • The issue: Women hospital
  • Our view: We propose that the managers of the Specialised hospital go back to the basics. They should activate a rigorous public information, education, and communication campaign to raise awareness, foster proper buy-in and ownership from the public of the new highly specialised unit.

Several queries remain unanswered about the new Specialised Women and Neonatal Hospital, Mulago.
Despite the fact that work commenced in 2015, and the hospital opened its door to the public on September 17, its access and operations remain unclear to a large number of Ugandans.

To some, it is a private hospital, to others a paying service hospital, while to many more it’s a mix of both public and private hospital. Regrettably, the managers of the highly specialised unit commissioned the facility with no robust public awareness campaigns. What it provided were only occasional bits and pieces, with scant info on who can and who cannot access the facility.
So government should come up with crystal clear explanation to clear up the confusion.

We all know Mulago was founded as public national referral hospital and has remained so even after several renovations, adjustments and addition of new services. On that basis, it remains a public institution to provide free public healthcare.
Similarly, the new facility is not any different. It was financed on a public Health Infrastructure Construction and Rehabilitation loan that Parliament approved in 2014/2015. But the current explanation of the hospital’s operation remains unclear. This is why the public deserves a clarification. But this is not to underplay the great service this new initiative will offer to mothers.

We’re aware that the specialist healthcare being offered by the Specialised Women and Neonatal Hospital in Mulago can never be cheap. We also know there is a huge gap in health financing by the government, and this has to be bridged, perhaps by cost-sharing in such public health units.
But even then, the issues of cost-sharing or otherwise must be clearly spelt out and transparently handled. But for now, the criteria of choosing who of the needy Ugandans should benefit are fuzzy. The so-called waiver for poor patients who cannot afford the costs is also unclear.

How will the assessments be done? Who benefits and who misses out? What are the criteria of determining who is poor and who is not? And who makes the decision?
For now, there are no open and known set criteria to answer these critical questions. Yet, these and many more frequently asked questions and attendant costs should have been determined at the planning, not at the commissioning of the hospital. As a remedy, we propose that the managers of the Specialised hospital go back to the basics. They should activate a rigorous public information, education, and communication campaign to raise awareness, foster proper buy-in and ownership from the public of the new highly specialised unit.

The public deserves clearer information on criteria of access and attendant costs.

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