Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye recently joked that the government is guarding hospitals as if they were army barracks.
And it’s not because the patients there are in some kind of danger. Ever since Besigye visited Abim hospital and its dilapidated state was exposed on national television, leaving the government embarrassed, he and other opposition leaders have sought to exploit the poor state of Uganda’s health facilities for their political advantage while the state has reacted by trying to deny them access.
Last weekend, the police couldn’t let Besigye into Kitagata hospital in Sheema district. Earlier, another presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi was blocked from accessing Kabale hospital.
It’s not news that almost all the major healthcare facilities in the country are in a sorry state. Abim, Kitagata and Kabale hospitals are just but a few examples of Uganda’s broken healthcare system.
For instance, it was revealed that Abim hospital, besides being in a state of decay, has not had a doctor for more than one year. Kitagata hospital, on the other hand, has not had serious renovation since it was built in the late 1960s. The state of affairs there is so bad that when parliament’s health committee visited some time back, the members hinted on having the facility closed.
Some people have blamed the opposition candidates for daring to use hospitals as a campaign tool but you really can’t blame them. It’s the responsibility of the opposition to expose the government’s failures and inefficiencies. They would be failing in their duty if they didn’t highlight the bad state of our healthcare.
It’s up to the government to deny the opposition cheap political points such as the sorry state of our hospitals. But government agents won’t achieve this by denying presidential candidates access to public facilities such as hospitals. Doing that makes it worse and clearly shows that you have something to hide.
Government will deny opposition candidates cheap points by doing its job well, which includes ensuring that public health facilities are well-maintained, well-manned and well-equipped.
If they have failed to do that for almost 30 years, how can Ugandans trust that they will do so in the next five years?