By Prisca Wanyenya
The Minister of State for Health, Anifa Kawooya has asked lawmakers to stop the purchase of ambulances for their constituencies without seeking clearance from the Ministry of Health. She argues that purchasing ambulances that have been modified from normal vehicles puts lives of patients and care workers at risk during the transportation.
The Minister said that whereas Lawmakers are using their money to purchase ambulances in order to supplement on Government’s effort in purchasing ambulances and at one time wanted to have taxes waived off on these ambulances, there is a policy barring individuals from simply purchasing ambulances on the open market without considering the standards set out by the Ministry of Health.
“When I see you running with all these Noahs, whatever, no, before you go into purchasing ambulances, come to the Ministry to get specifications of the type of ambulances that you must bring in because at one time, they are the same ambulances we are going to have involved in the road carnages because the specifications haven’t been permitted,” said Kawooya.
The Minister made the remarks while appearing before Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure Committee, where she had been summoned to discuss the impact of road crashes on the health sector.
However, her remarks were critiqued by Michael Bukenya (Bukuya County) and Robert Kasolo (Iki Iki County) who said MPs are forced to purchase ambulances as a bridge gap measure to fill the shortage of ambulances in the country, yet these private ambulances too aren’t enough because most road crash victims are transported on motorcycles to health facilities.
“In many areas, boda bodas are saving lives, the standard can’t be raised where there is scarcity,” said Kasolo.
Minister Kawooya acknowledged the shortage of ambulances and emergency care services in Uganda, but warned against capitalizing on the shortage as an excuse to ignore standards set out by the Ministry of Health.
According to information by the Ministry of Health, an ambulance census conducted in 2019 , Uganda requires 460 ambulances to support its health care system, however currently, the country has 178 government ambulances and 172 private ambulances.
However, the situation is worsened by the international health standards that requires Uganda to upgrade its current fleet of ambulances to meet the required health standards.
Currently, the Government has a shortage of 340 ambulances including; 315 Type B Road Ambulances with each costing Shs280m bringing the funding gap of Shs88.2Bn. The Ministry also needs 20 Type C road and marine ambulances whose funding is to a tune of Shs11. 4Bn, as well as 5 Type C aeromedical ambulances worth Shs3. 4Bn.
The Minister revealed that due to the complex situation in the greater Kampala metropolitan area, plans are underway at the Ministry of Health to purchase the paramedic high level motor bikes for professional first responders so that teams can reach the scene of emergency in not more than 30 minutes and says these will supplement ambulances.