By Gilbert Akampa Kakurugu,
Prisons Service (UPS) has appealed to Members of Parliament to advocate for increase of the wage of the correctional body from Shs12.1 billion to Shs18.2 billion to enable recruitment of health workers.
The prisons representatives, alongside Uganda Police Force made the appeal while appearing before the Committee on HIV/AIDS on 21 March 2023.
The Assistant Commissioner of Health in the prisons service, Dr. James Kisamu said that recruitment of more health workers will facilitate health service delivery at prison health units.
“The current health worker force is at 25 per cent for 267 prison facilities. About only 50 per cent facilities have health workers while the remaining 50 per cent seek for health care at community based Ministry of Health facilities,” said Kisamu.
He added that prisoners who seek medical attention at community based health facilities are limited by distances and the need for security during the process.
Kisamu also called for affirmative action to ensure that the Ministry of Health accredits prisons facilities to enable prisoners and staff have access to adequate health care.
“The health services in the prisons differ from those in the community because of the uniqueness of the prisons environment. However, the mandate to accredit health facilities lies with the Health Ministry which established the standards without making due consideration for unique institutions,” he said.
Kisamu also advocated for provision of funds to upgrade three Health Centre III’s to Health Centre IV’s at Gulu, Jinja and Kakiika prisons.
“To achieve increased standard of health care to the level of that provided in the community, funds should be provided. As Uganda Prisons Services grapples with overcrowding, the available infrastructure development fund is focused on providing accommodation,” said Kisamu.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Inspector General of Police and Director of Police Health Service, Dr. Moses Byaruhanga asked the committee to advocate for separate budget line for HIV/AIDS to yield better results in the fight against the virus in the Force.
“The challenge is that the budget for health is a block budget and as such, HIV/AIDS is not prioritized,” said Byaruhanga.
He also raised concern over the appalling state of welfare of police officers, saying that the situation is worsening because of increasing population.
“The number of officers has increased with no budget for expansion. When you go upcountry where some facilities are co-funded by donors and the population is not high, their facilities are fair but in urban areas, the conditions are dire,” he said.
The lawmakers however, expressed disappointment with the failure by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire to appear before the committee, saying issues raised are best discussed with him.
The Committee Chairperson, Hon. Sarah Netalisire said that the committee could not respond to the budget requests because they should be raised by the Minister.
“The minister should come and we support him as a committee. I know you are representing him but if I asked you political questions, will you be able to respond,” Netalisire asked.
She said that she has written to the minister three times, requesting him to appear before the committee, in vain.
Hon. Julius Acon (NRM, Otuke County) said that while the committee is willing to support the request for increased funding for the security organs, the minister’s reluctance to appear before the committee casts doubt on his seriousness.
“The minister needs to take this committee seriously. Some ministers undermine committee work. How then shall we support him when these issues are raised on the Floor of Parliament? You need to take feedback to him,” Acon said.
Bughendera County MP, Hon. Moses Acrobat described the minister’s failure to appear as embarrassing.
“All issues discussed concern the minister. We have two ministers and I would love that the committee summons these ministers. I am dismayed that even you the chairperson did not receive a formal apology,” said Acrobat.