Margaret Muhanga, Minister of State for Health (General Duties)
MPs have blasted the Ministry of Health for the failure to transport marine ambulances to island districts due to financial challenges.
This followed a complaint raised by Idd Isabirye (Bunya South) who revealed that although President Museveni launched 12 marine ambulances for emergency health care services on water bodies to address the gap in health services in May 2022, the beneficiary districts are yet to receive the ambulances.
“As I talk now, it’s now three months since these ambulances were commissioned but up to now, they are still parked.. it defeats the purpose of why these ambulances were procured. That is why when such projects are procured, they shouldn’t rush to commission if they aren’t ready to hand them over to the community,” said Isabirye.
Margaret Muhanga, Minister of State for Health (General Duties) acknowledged that indeed the President launched the ambulances at Uganda People’s Defence Forces Marine headquarters in Entebbe but they’re still stuck at the facility as the Ministry is yet to gets funds to transport these ambulances.
The Minister said: “These ambulances were 12 and they’re supposed to be delivered but due to financial consequence, and also lack of operational funds we didn’t send them immediately to these places. We would like to ask Members of Parliament, since you appropriate to assist us so that we can get these ambulances to their destination because we need a carrier to take them to these places.”
According to the Ministry of Health, these ambulances were meant for use in districts of Buvuma, Obongi, Serere, Kumi, Amolatar among others that are located around water bodies in Uganda.
The Minister’s response angered some MPs like Sarah Opendi (DWR Tororo) who castigated the Ministry of Health for keeping Ambulances flagged off by the President in May on grounds of lack of operational costs.
“It is completely unacceptable to sit for three months and wait to transport these ambulances, you have to wait for the MP to bring this to Parliament, I think this isn’t proper. Is it in order for the Minister to waste our time asking for operational funds yet she could have gone to the Prime Minister to handle this matter,” said Opendi.
Premier Robinah Nabbanja moved swiftly to save Minister Muhanga by promising to sort out the matter stating, “This matter is going to be handled and your order is taken into consideration, tomorrow she should come to my office and have this done,” she said.
However, Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga wasn’t contented with the Prime Minister’s response which he compared to firefighting out of the problem, remarking, “But if I was the Prime Minister in this government, I would request the Minister to resign today for the statements that is asking for money to carry ambulances that were launched in May. Can the Minister account for the death and lived lost out of negligence of duty?”
Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa ordered “Can you go and handle that with the Prime Minister because Parliament doesn’t handle issues of wheel loaders.”
It should be recalled that in the Statement on State of Health Services Delivery in Uganda made in September 2021, Minister of Health Ruth Achen revealed that when an ambulance census was conducted in 2019, it established that Uganda has 178 government ambulances and 172 private ambulances.
However, Minister Achen revealed that the 178 ambulances owned by Government are against the requirements of 460 required to support the health care system, yet even the ambulances in use by Government are below the recommended international health standards.
Government has a gap of 340 ambulances and of these, Type B Road Ambulances required are 315, with each costing Ss280m bringing the funding gap of Shs88. 2Bn.
The Ministry also needs 20 Type C road and marine ambulances whose funding is to a tune of Shs11. 4Bn, as well as 5 Type C aeromedical ambulances worth Shs3. 4Bn.