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Senior medical consultants cause more maternal deaths, gov’t discloses

Women activists protest rampart maternal deaths in Uganda’s health facilities. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Chronic absenteeism and carelessness of senior staff in government health facilities across the country have been blamed for the persistent increase in maternal deaths especially at referral levels.

The Maternal and Perinatal mortality situation report by the Ministry of Health reveals that the country is registering many avoidable deaths of delivering mothers and newborns, largely due to sloppiness of the staff.

The deaths due to negligent senior medics are worst in Fort Portal and Hoima. However, the many avoidable deaths of mothers at Kawempe Referral Hospital are mostly caused by negligently late referrals from places like Mubende, where it takes at least three hours to bring a mother by ambulance when she is already an emergency case.

Doctor Henry Mwebasa, the Director General of Health Services at the Ministry while presenting the report to staff of Masaka Regional Referral hospital over weekend indicated that the ministry is concerned over many staffs especially at senior levels including consultants who are working far below their capacities due to negligence and chronic absenteeism from duty.

He says critical analysis of the report has established that many of these senior medical staff were not delivering on their deployment responsibilities despite having the competence to prevent such deaths.

According to the report, the numbers are mainly worrying in referral hospitals with Kawempe, Hoima, Mubende and Fort portal hospitals taking the lead with monthly mortalities of 120, 38, 23 and 10 cases respectively.

Dr Mwebase explains that in addition to the underlying deliberate staff weaknesses at regional referrals, the senior health cadres at the general hospitals and at health centres III and IV are not exhausting their potentials, thereby making unnecessary referrals including of patients that can be handled at their lower level health facilities.

He adds that their analysis established that many senior health staff are continuously absconding from their duties and instead leaving the responsibilities to lower level health cadres whose abilities to handle complications are limited.

However as remedy, the Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health says they are now reviewing their performance appraisal mechanisms and that they will soon start processing salary payments based on the targets met by each staff.

She explains that the Ministry is building a robust digitized monitoring to be able to track staff performance for purposes of improving efficiency and effectiveness in the health services systems.

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