HEALTH WORKER TALES: When politicians wanted health workers to stop carrying bags to work
Regular medicine stock outs are synonymous with Uganda’s struggling public health system. The public procuring agency national medical stores in underfunded and cannot meet the demands of a growing population. But a few bad apples among health workers have made the public believe that medics steal the medicines, writes Kakaire Ayub Kirunda.
According to the Kibuku District Health Officer Dr Ahmed Bumba (Right), at a recent meeting, political leaders suggested that that health workers should stop going with bags to the health facilities because they believe drugs would be carried away in these bags.
“I told them next time they were going to tell us to come with trousers without pockets. Many times, when there are problems with the health system, the first to be accused are health workers. If there are no drugs, ‘the health workers have stolen the drugs’; there are no mama kits, ‘they put them in their bags,’” Dr Bumba said in a recent interview while discussing a maternal and newborn healthcare community score cards study in Kibuku District being supported by Makerere University School of Public Health under the Future Health Systems Research Consortium.
Now Dr Bumba is optimistic that the scorecards process will bring together health workers, community members and political leaders in the district to address the challenges affecting effective delivery of quality maternal and newborn health care services.
“For example, on average, in this district a Health Centre 3 receives 50 mama kits for a period of two months but during the same period there have about 150 deliveries. So, it is obvious that 100 mothers will deliver without mama kits,” said Dr Bumba. “So, we have an opportunity to give this message to the community, for them to understand it, and stop complaining that the health workers have taken the mama kits, but they receive few, and for the leaders to get this feedback.”
With this interaction, argues Dr Bumba, key stakeholders will be able to understand each other, play their respective roles and improve service delivery.
Asked whether the scorecards initiative would not turn out to be a recipe for disaster, Dr Bumba acknowledged that there would be bumps in the beginning but with time stakeholders would eventually understand the intentions and processes better.
“The beauty of the design of the scorecard process is that the interface meetings will provide an opportunity for a very transparent talk. For me I am looking forward to this so much because the health workers will be able to explain their part, the community gives feedback and the leaders will also be there and solutions sought.”
Dr Bumba however thinks that even the anticipated conflicts during the process come with some advantages, saying: “I have no problem with finger pointing because finger pointing is actually good. When you point a finger, others also have an opportunity of pointing at you.”
Health workers at Kibuku Health Centre IV discuss indicators for the MNH scorecard