The African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) participated at the 2nd Uganda UK Health Alliance symposium held virtually on October 22, 2020.
The symposium is a platform for governments, institutions, and individuals to share expertise and opportunities on building capacity in global health to address existing demands and emerging public health challenges. It was held under the theme “Towards Universal Health Coverage: Building Global Health Capacity for a better decade.
Discussions focused on the progress towards UHC 2030 in the context of the ongoing COVID 19 Pandemic.
The ACHEST Executive Director, Prof. Francis Omaswa chaired a session on the health workforce challenges and collective action that should be taken by countries. He recalled that the last conversation with members of this group was about recruitment agencies.
He noted that during the pandemic, the difficulties faced by the health workers include fatigue, lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and allowances “which take long to come or don’t come at all.”
Prof. Omaswa also called for the need for the Uganda government to revise the staffing norms which were established in 1999, in order to match the high population growth and changing diseases burden. Uganda’s population has more than doubled from 21 million people in 1999 to over 40 million in 2019. It should be noted that in 2019, ACHEST published a report on Health Workforce Financing in Uganda, which shows these glaring gaps (https://achestdatabase.achest.org/publications/presentations-72)
“Even if health workers were fully employed at the current staffing norms they can’t deal with the high numbers of patients,” said Prof. Omaswa. To this, The Ministry of Health’s Head of Human Resource Patrick Okello said they at the final stages of revising the staffing norms, adding that the government was committed to addressing the challenges.
The complex issue of the high unemployment rates of health workers in poor countries, versus the migration to wealthier countries, came out strongly during the session. Unemployment often coexists with unfilled posts in the public service.
“We have to recognize that we are in this together, and we have shared challenges. We need to improve access, improving quality of training, and make more funding available,” said Ben Simms, the Tropical Health and Education Trust(THET) Chief Executive Officer, as he referred to the ACHEST’s May 22, 2020 webinar on “ Global Health Workforce Crisis: From Conflict to Collaboration”.
In his presentation on the effect of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation Uganda Representative Dr. Yonas Tegegn showed the stark reality of how global health and economies have been hit hard.
“. 25 years have been lost in 25 weeks of the pandemic, This is the biggest recession since 1870. For the health sector, we are at a stage where we were in 1990. That is the type of loss that comes with the pandemic,” said Dr. Tegegn, adding: “COVID-19 has shown us that we are highly connected. The solidarity we have seen is where the hope is.
Speakers also noted that the pandemic has improved health literacy, as people adapt preventive approaches to fighting the pandemic. “For every negative, there is a positive. We need to invest in information health systems to improve communication,” remarked Prof Neil Squires, the Director of Global Public Health England
Freddie Ssengoba, a Prof. of Health Economics from Makerere School of Public Health expressed hope that the effects of the pandemic would lay a solid ground for the ministries of finance to prioritize health.
The meeting was chaired by The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine who also represented Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, ACHEST