Poor Doctor-to-Patient Ratio Frustrates Uganda’s Workforce Exchange Plan with UK

Uganda cannot export health workers to the United Kingdom despite an arrangement entered early this year to exchange health workforce for skills transfer and improving health service delivery.

Dr Henry Muwonge, the Executive Director of Uganda – UK Health Alliance said the World Health Organization (WHO) had raised a red flag about the move citing Uganda’s poor health-worker-to-patient ratios which remain too low to allow for such an exchange to happen.

While the recommended doctor-to-patient ratio set by WHO is one to a thousand population) (1:1000), Uganda is still operating at one per twenty-five thousand population ( 1:25,000). When it comes to nurses, the country has a nurse per eleven thousand people (1:11,000) against the recommended one per three patients in the emergency unit, one per two patients in the intensive care unit and one per eight patients in the ward. 

Muwonge says with these figures, the organization couldn’t give them a green light and urged the country to work on their numbers and meet their population needs before they could recommend any export of health workers from Uganda. He was speaking at a press conference held at the Ministry of Health on Monday.

Uganda and UK had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in May when Permanent Secretary Dr Diana Atwine visited the UK in which the two countries agreed on a number of issues geared at promoting cooperation in healthcare provision which included sending nurses to work in the National Health System of UK.

But Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services in the ministry said they are re-evaluating themselves to see what is attainable and also identify other new opportunities in health where they can collaborate. This, he said, will be done at an upcoming symposium on November 2, where officials from the two countries will brainstorm areas where support is needed.  

He said they are currently working on filling the gaps in the health workforce to raise their rating as far as the WHO-recommended ratios are concerned.

However, apart from collaborating on workforce exchanges, Philip Smith, the Development Director at the British High Commission said the UK is currently funding a number of other health projects in the country including one on global health security through which they have extended 2.2 million pounds to fund WASH activities in the current Ebola Outbreak.        

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