By Prisca Wanyenya
The Ministry of Health has expressed concerns over the increasing cost of treating victims of road crashes, revealing that the Government spends over Shs1.5Bn per month to provide medical care to them at Mulago National Referral Hospital alone.
The revelation was made by Anifa Kawooya, State Minister of Health (General Duties) while appearing before Parliament’s Committee on Physical Infrastructure to respond to concerns on how the health sector is dealing with the increased road carnage cases in Uganda.
The Minister informed Parliament that road crash deaths are the 7th leading cause of death in the health sector, with Mulago National Referral Hospital alone attributing 45.6 percent of its admissions to road carnage.
“The average cost of treating a critically ill patient is about Shs3.6M per day, with surgical intervention, the cost rises to Shs13.6M per day, which translates to Shs648M for the care of 180 critically ill patients at Mulago National referral hospital. Half of these patients require surgery, raising the total cost to Shs1.548Bn per month. Annually, the ER at Mulago requires Shs18.576Bn annually for standard care for the critically ill injured,” Minister Kawooya.
The development comes at the time the Annual Police Crime Report 2021 revealed a growth in the number of crashes by 42% from 12,249 in 2020 to 17,443 and of these, 3,757 were fatal and 4616 were minor.
In the February 2018 report by United Nations Road Safety Performance Review, conducted by the United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe (UNECE) and Africa (ECA), revealed that the number of road traffic fatalities recorded in Uganda increased seven-fold over the past 25 years with 10 people dying every day due to road traffic injuries.
However, David Karubanga, Chairperson Physical Infrastructure Committee said the data provided by the Ministry of Health only provided figures from Mulago National Referral Hospital and there is need for the Ministry to provide more elaborate data on how much the country loses in treatment of accidents per hospital countrywide.
According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda has 3,133 Public health facilities and these include; 72 functional public hospitals and these include; 5 Specialized Hospitals, 5 National Referral Hospitals located in Kampala, 16 Regional Referral Hospitals and 46 functional General Hospitals which handle most cases of critically ill road crash victims.
While reacting to the latest development, Sam Bambaza, Road Safety activist and Founder of Hope for Victims of Traffic Accidents (HOVITA) warned that if no efforts are taken to increase on awareness on the impact of road carnage on the lives of people, road crashes are there to stay in Uganda.
He cited the roads constructed in Uganda, that don’t cater for other road users, other than motorists, arguing that the trend has increasingly put lives of pedestrians at risk.
“From my observation, most of these roads constructed, are constructed only for vehicles, they aren’t shared roads that could care for motorcyclists and pedestrians. Ugandans are walking people but there is no provision for pedestrians, that is why the percentage for pedestrians involved in road crashes is high because we don’t safe crossing areas and walkways on most sides of the road and this puts lives of pedestrians and motorcyclists at risk,” he said.
He also called for increased funding by the government into road safety, arguing that the road carnage in the country is being caused mostly by fellow Ugandans and also called to have road safety incorporated in road contracts.
According to the United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe (UNECE) and Africa (ECA), report, Uganda’s accident severity index stands at 24 people killed per 100 road crashes and further highlighted that the overall annual cost of road crashes is currently estimated at approximately Shs4.4Trn equivalent to 5% of Uganda’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The United Nations however noted that the magnitude of the road safety challenge is serious and has unfortunately failed to attract the necessary attention for appropriate interventions and warned that unless effective interventions are implemented, road crashes are likely to increase and even double within the next ten years.