Uganda’s healthcare system is dangerously miserable. The concept of free or even affordable treatment at government hospitals is long dead with constant drug stock outs, corruption and lack of equipment. In contrast, private health care keeps getting better but more expensive, excluding the majority who are not able to afford it. A basic malaria test costs between UGX 5000 – 15,000 and full treatment goes for UGX 23,000 at the least. A regular full body work up, recommended at least once a year, costs about UGX 600,000. It wouldn’t be too wild to assume this would make even the middle class uncomfortable. In a country where non-communicable diseases are on the rise and health care, however unreliable, has become monetised, crowd funding seems to be the only option left for a chance at treatment.
For some, the solution to this broken system is more equipped hospitals in Nairobi and India, USA and Europe for the more affluent. I for one knew I was screwed when I visited 13 (highly recommended) doctors for the same issue but none could diagnose me. Outsourcing treatment for non-communicable diseases and other chronic illnesses especially, has become the norm that even our speaker of parliament had to be airlifted to Nairobi for treatment for fatigue related illnesses. You know the people of the country are in a lot of trouble when not one of the thousands of doctors churned out of all the medical schools can treat fatigue related illness cancer, heart disease, or anything else basically. But even if they could, they possibly wouldn’t do much with the appaliapp conditions in which they work. Unsatisfactory pay, poorly maintained and supplied facilities lacking the basics like gloves, beds and pain killers. Hospitals where surgery comes to a standstill when there is a power outage, which happens quite often.
International treatment has proven to be a great solution, however, close to 11 million Ugandans who earn less than UGX 500,000 each month could not possibly afford to airlift their sick plus an attendant to Nairobi for several weeks with ease. Cue in fundraisers. Because not getting this treatment will for sure kill you, the money for your treatment in better provisioned facilities abroad has to come from somewhere. In a period of 2 years, I have seen over 30 fundraisers to raise money towards medical bills. Understandably. Medical expenses can be horrifically high, only the haves are able to seek treatment without asking for help. Car washes, lemonade stands, movie nights, football games, some have been fortunate to raise all the money required, extended treatment and gone on to live out the rest of their lives. Many have not.
Between the failed public health care system and exorbitant private clinics, what it boils down to is the ability of your social capital to save your life when the time comes. If you are an average middle-class Ugandan, among the 50%, earning close to or less than UGX 37 million per annum, your social capital could be the only thing that stands between life and death from a curable or incurable disease.