Health Committee Meeting on the Mental Health Bill
Discussed in the Committee on Health on December 6th, 2017
The committee on Health was today meeting the State Minister for Health Hon. Sarah Opendi and a team from Butabika Mental Hospital led by the Dr Juliet Nakku, its Deputy Director. The meeting which was chaired by Hon. Dr Bukenya was called to discuss the Mental Health Bill, 2014. The meeting sprung to life as soon as the chairperson started giving his communication.
The committee members requested through the chair to summon the Personal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Health Dr Diana Atwine Kanzira. The members wanted the PS to answer the technical questions that they had lined up but were not on the initial agenda. One of the pressing issues was raised was the status of nurses that are also on strike, the salary increment of doctors and challenges faced by interns.
The Hon. Minister tried to answer to these before she could make her presentation. She informed the committee about the rumours that are circulating about the Ministry not taking care of its own. This was in regard to Hon. Minister of Health Dr Joyce Kaduchu who is critically ill after she got food poisoning and now has respiratory complications. Hon. Sarah Opendi said the rumours were not true and that Dr Kaduchu is due for a flight to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi to receive extensive medical attention
She also hinted at the salaries of the doctors and said that the new payment plan will take effect during the next financial year. She said the Ministry ruled out the option to initiate a supplementary budget because the money to pay these salaries is in trillions. Sighting out that these are huge sums of money that the parliament cannot allocate. When asked about the Resident District Commissioners who are occupying housing facilities meant for health workers, she promised to work with police to throw them out.
The minister was also critical to the issue of medical care interns who are not receiving their allowances and have issues with housing facilities. She maintained that money for their allowances has been allocated and that she’s going to work to see that they get suitable accommodation.
After a series of heated questions and answers, the Chairperson redirected the meeting to discuss the Mental Health Bill of 2014. The Minister read out the different clauses of the bill to the committee. The Bill seeks to provide for mental health treatment at primary health centres, provide for emergency admission and treatment. It also seeks to establish Uganda Mental Health Advisory Board and to provide for its composition.
The bill attracted much support from the committee members who said it was long overdue. They promised to look into the bill and strive to have it tabled in Parliament. This comes at a time when the country has one national mental referral hospital and lack of enough human resource aligned to mental health care.