By Drake Nyamugabwa
The Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) working with the Ministry of health is finalizing preparations to roll out biometric finger print technology in hospitals. Health center IVs and Health center IIIs of 20 pilot districts in Eastern Uganda have been mapped out, as one of the measures to curb absenteeism of health workers. The revelation was made by the head of Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) Prof Ezra Suruma, during a health service delivery consultative meeting with technical officers from the 20 PMDU focus districts; on health worker productivity at Wash and Wills hotel in Mbale last Tuesday. Prof. Ezra Suruma said Uganda could earn large amounts of foreign exchange from neighboring countries; such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), by becoming a centre of excellence in services.
He said the additional resources that will accrue from medical tourism could be used to enhance the payment of medical workers in the country. “We need to change our attitudes regarding service delivery and be determined to become a center of excellence,” Suruma said. “You are at the centre of helping people to have a better quality of life,” Suruma he added, noting that health worker presence is one of the key indicators of health worker productivity.
The Minister of State for Northern Uganda, Grace Kwiyucwiny, while opening the meeting urged the DHO’s to be at the forefront of health service delivery in their respective districts; by ensuring proper leadership, maximizing efficiencies and being innovative and problem solvers. She said despite the challenges of low funding and inadequate staffing, which government is trying to address, the available resources should be planned for and used properly to enhance service delivery in the country. The Minister challenged local governments regarding the issue of returning money to the centre at the end of the financial year, which she attributed to poor planning. “One of the districts in Northern Uganda returned 2.8 billion shillings to the centre because money was released late”, Kwiyucwiny said.
The PMDU Health thematic team leader Dr. Enid Mbabazi said the District technical officers were consulted about the planned roll out of the biometric finger print technology, which will help in tracking health worker attendance to duty and also the duty roster as a management tool for addressing absenteeism. “We want health workers to change their attitude towards work and also accept that these biometric machines are not a policing tool,” said Dr. Mbabazi, adding that their target is to eliminate absenteeism of health workers by January 2018.
She said the lessons learned from the 20 districts will be replicated to the rest of the country in a phased manner. Biometric scanners are already operational in the 14 regional referral hospitals. Dr. Jackson Ojera, the Director Health Monitoring Unit of State House said biometric machines installed in Iganga hospital, Mukono HCIV, Naguru hospital and Luwero HCIV have led to improvement in health worker attendance to duty.
“Iganga CAO is using biometrics to pay health workers. If you work for 20 days, you get payment for 20 days, if you work for 5 days you get pay for 5 days,” Dr Ojera said. Dr. Ojera further said this approach will help government reduce expenditure if salaries are paid according to those who work like in Iganga district. The DHO’s in their memorandum read by the Bulambuli DHO, Dr. Mulongo Muhamed, urged Government to consider enhancing the salaries and budgets of the health sector, stabilize supply of drugs and other equipment and also improve infrastructure; including accommodation and health workers to improve health worker productivity.
The biometric machines and Android phones are being procured with support from DFID, the development arm of the United Kingdom. The District technical officers composed of District health officers (DHO’s) and Human resource officers; were drawn from the Districts of Mbale, Sironko, Bududa, Buvuma, Kapchorwa, Bukwo, Tororo, Bulambuli and Soroti. Others are Serere, Pallisa, Luuka, Buyende, Kayunga, Namutumba, Bugiri, Mayuge, Kaliro, Manafwa and Kween.