Building Sustainable Health Financing Systems; ‘COVID-19 should prompt govt to increase health budget’

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Experts have urged the Government and other stakeholders to ensure more resources are channeled into the health sector if the country’s labour force is to be more productive and economically progressive.

During the eighth Certified Public Accounts Economic Forum, which was conducted online, experts said the COVID-19 crisis should be a wakeup call to the Government to give the country’s health sector the portion of the national budget it deserves.

Delivering a paper titled: The State of Health Care and Building a Sustainable Health Financing Systems, Dr Emmanuel Luyirika, the executive director of the African Palliative Care Association, said;

“It is high time government increased the share for health from 5.9% of the national budget to the 15% that is recommended in the 2001 Abuja Declaration, which Uganda is a signatory to.

Considering that government may not have adequate resources to increase the health budget to 15%immediately , Luyirika proposed that  it can be done in a phased manner, over the next 5 years.

Emphasising the need for a country to have a well-functioning and inclusive health system with both robust curative and preventive interventions, Luyirika said over 122 million people globally become bankrupt/ poor after spending on medical bills.

He suggested the need for abolishing treatment of government officials abroad and in private hospitals within Uganda as one of the radical reforms, which would compel government decision-makers to be more serious in revamping the country’s health system. 

Luyirika suggested that the Government needs to introduce ‘sin taxes’ on products and activities, which endanger the lives of Ugandans, which include alcohol, tobacco, beverages and sugar, to raise more funds for the health sector.

A ‘sin tax’ is an excise duty/tax specifically levied on certain goods deemed to be harmful to society and individuals.

Other suggestions include the need to improve hospitals with better infrastructure and facilities, improve recruitment and retention of medical staff to fill vacant positions and the need for the establishment of a national ambulance system.

“If all those interventions are implemented, Uganda will have an affordable and universal health system, which covers all Ugandans of all categories. Other countries have achieved it. We can also achieve it,” Luyirika said.

Allana Kembabazi, the programmes manager for the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), decried the low funding to emergency medical services by the Government, which decreased from sh941m in the 2019/2020 financial year to sh915m in the 2020/2021 financial year.

This article was originally published in the New Vision newspaper on 9 September 2020 under the heading ‘COVID-19 should prompt govt to increase health budget’.