The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) has expressed serious concerns over the government’s decision to divert health funds to bail out Roko Construction Company from financial collapse.

Minister of State for Finance, Henry Musasizi, recently addressed Parliament, explaining that the reallocation of 300 billion shillings from the health budget to the treasury was necessary to settle Roko’s outstanding bills and bank charges at the Bank of Uganda.

This move came after President Yoweri Museveni declined to sign the 2024 appropriation bill, insisting on the funds’ return to the national treasury. Dr. Herbert Luswata, President of UMA, emphasized in a press briefing on Monday that the removal of 27 billion shillings allocated for ambulance maintenance from the health budget will severely hinder ambulance services nationwide.

He noted that although Uganda procured 116 ambulances with partner support, many remain non-operational due to a lack of accompanying healthcare workers. Luswata highlighted instances where midwives from Health Center III are pulled away to accompany patients in ambulances to referral sites, leaving critical gaps in local healthcare provision.

According to Luswata, part of the allocated funds was intended for ambulance fuel, as shortages often compel health workers to seek fuel donations from patients, resulting in delays and, tragically, deaths—particularly among laboring mothers.

The doctors also criticized the police for their handling of road crash victims, asserting that police lack the necessary medical expertise. Dr. Joel Mirembe, Secretary-General of UMA, stated that police mishandling has led to worsened conditions and deaths among victims.

Furthermore, Mirembe pointed out that healthcare funding in Uganda falls far below the recommended minimum of 10% of the national budget, currently standing at less than 5%, severely compromising healthcare delivery.

UMA plans to mobilize public support for demanding improved healthcare services from the government unless the Ministry of Finance presents a supplementary budget to reinstate operational ambulance services.

Mirembe emphasized, “Ambulances are not a luxury. If you miss an ambulance by 30 minutes, you could die. We cannot accept funds meant for healthcare being redirected to construction projects. We are building lives, not just structures.”

Meanwhile, doctors also condemned Ugandan rapper Gravity Omutujju for depicting medical procedures in a demeaning manner in his upcoming song. Dr. Wilberforce Kabweru, Chairperson of Ethics and Professionalism at UMA, criticized the use of clinical images in Gravity’s video, which he deemed embarrassing and disrespectful to medical professionals and patients.

On April 27, 2001, African Union (AU) governments, including Uganda, adopted the Abuja Declaration committing to allocate at least 15% of national budgets to improve healthcare.

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