Health practitioners convene to discuss Access to information in health sector during COVID-19.
agencies were not complying with obligations to proactively publish information as well receive and respond to information requests. Also the findings indicated lack of awareness, capacity, and lack of the will to disclose which AFIC officials say has undermined the realization of citizens rights to information in Uganda's health sector especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following an assessment conducted in July 2019 in selected health agencies by Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) a pan African Civil Society Organisations promoting access to information in Africa, to determine the implementation of the Access to Information Act 2005 (ATI), it indicated implementation gaps in Uganda.
According to the assessment findings, agencies were not complying with obligations to proactively publish information as well receive and respond to information requests. Also the findings indicated lack of awareness, capacity, and lack of the will to disclose which AFIC officials say has undermined the realization of citizens rights to information in Uganda's health sector especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a workshop of more than 45 health practitioners from national and district levels to ensure applicability and status of ATI Act of agencies under Ministry of Health, the Executive Director of AFIC, Gilbert Sendugwa, said that when AFIC carried out a study on the implementation of the right to Information by public bodies, it was discovered that both proactive and on requests information disclosers were very low citing reasons of mute refusal, transfers of requests, and rare court settlement among others.
“The implementation of the right to Information by public bodies when investigated was found out that statutory information requests and proactive discloser was still very low. The study targeted information on organizations, budgets, operations” he said
He called upon public agencies come up with implementation plans for the implementation of information disclosers including assigning official with a proper profile to handle that duty, a central electronic request system among others in their institutional structures.
The Administrator of Uganda Cancer Institute Tumweaige Robert while sharing the experience on how cancer patients accessed information from March 2020 on wards, said that communication measures were out in place at the institute for both patients who had been locked within the hospital at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and those who were expected to visit including public speech system within the hospital, toll free lines, posters among others. He added that at the beginning of the lock down patients resident at the Institute had to be looked after.
“Locked up patients at the institute had to be made feel at home and then to access information through measures that were set in place like public speech systems, toll free lines, posters. We also adopted the use of virtual meeting like zoom, social media” he said.
In 2005, Uganda adopted the Access to Information Act with the aim of promoting an efficient, effective, transparent and accountable government among other objectives.
World Health Organisation reveals that preventive diseases account to over 50% of mobility, and mortality with Malaria, HIV and Tuberculosis and preventive respiratory taking the lead. WHO report also show that lack of access to information make it easy for corruption and mismanagement to thrive, undermining people rights to health.
The key health sector institutions in Uganda include Ministry of Health, National Medical Stores, Uganda Blood Transfusion Services, Uganda Public Health Laboratories, Uganda National Health Research Organisation among others.