By Henry Sekanjako
The Parliament's committee on national economy has rejected a proposal to borrow $30.28m (sh75.7b) for financing the construction of a specialized women hospital for maternal and neonatal health care at Mulago hospital.
The proposed loan is to be secured from the Islamic Development Bank.
The women hospital project valued at sh75.7b, is expected to be operational by 2017 to reduce the number of in-hospital maternity and neonatal deaths by 25%.
Speaking during a meeting with ministry of health officials on Thursday at Parliament, the lawmakers argued that government needed to extend maternal health services to regional referral hospitals and not only Mulago hospital.
The MPs also contended that Parliament had just approved money for the rehabilitation of Mulago hospital and suggested that the money instead be used to expand regional referral hospitals to decongest Mulago.
"The women of this country need to benefit but this issue of putting everything at Mulago should stop and extend health services to other parts of the country where the poor cannot afford private medical care. Why not consider areas like Jinja, Gulu where women are most affected," said Steven Bakka (Bukhooli).
Moses Balyeku (Jinja Municipality west) said: "I am not going to be part of this loan; I will decampaign it. We have done enough for Mulago hospital and so it's time for other hospitals to benefit also. We passed a loan for the rehabilitation of Mulago, why didn't you budget for this as well".
"Majority of the poor women are in rural areas where there are little structures so government should consider extending such services to rural areas for the poor people to benefit," added Mariam Nalubega (Butambala).
‘Split the money’
The committee chaired by Bulisa County MP Steven Mukitaale proposed that government considers splitting the money to benefit all regional referral hospitals country wide.
"This money should be split to cover the whole country and not only Mulago. How do you expect pregnant women to travel all the way from Gulu to Mulago in Kampala?” noted Julius Maganda (Samia Bugwe south).
However Dr. Henry Mwebasa, commissioner in charge of quality assurance in Ministry of Health said having the loan split would affect their plan since the borrowers may decide to withdraw.
"We are on course of upgrading all other regional referral hospitals but there is no way we can have this loan split. We beg that you help us reconsider your position and endorse this money," Mwebasa pleaded before the committee.
The committee asked the Ministry of Health to go back on the drawing board and include other regional referral hospitals ahead of the final meeting with the parliament's committee on social services next week.