New regional project to boost referral patients

East Africans who travel abroad for specialised medical care will soon start receiving the treatment within the region, if an envisaged project is successfully implemented.

East Africans who travel abroad for specialised medical care will soon start receiving the treatment within the region, if an envisaged project is successfully implemented.

The EAC Deputy Secretary-General for productive and social sector, Jessica Eriyo, said the project, which aims at ensuring each EAC partner state has a specialist in at least one medical condition, will be funded by the African Development Bank and EAC.

Eriyo said the project could be rolled out in two years, but she could not say how much money would be injected into the project.

“There is no need for people to travel to India. We have realised that as the regional population grows, there is a need for more health facilities,” she said.

Eriyo said the project will be pushed through an intensive capacity building programme as well as equipping existing hospitals with the required facilities to handle complicated cases.

The region has always been characterised by inadequate health specialists that is exacerbated by braindrain.

The sector is also facing the challenge of low budgetary allocation, with only Rwanda having implemented the Abuja Declaration that calls upon countries to allocate at least 15 per cent of national budget to the health sector.

Dr Martin Mwondha, a medical practitioner from Uganda and the chief executive of EA Civil society organisations’ forum, said the new project will specifically target regional citizens who do not usually have financial capacity to access treatment abroad.

Commenting on the health challenges in the region, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the minister of Health, said there is need to strengthen cooperation to raise awareness and mobilisation among the nationals to address the challenges.

“Health challenges are not only in developing countries. We still have more children and women dying, that’s why we need to continue strengthening our capacity to help our people,” Dr Binagwaho said.

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