By. Lukanga Samuel
Mr.Ong Ye Kung is the Minister for Health in Singapore, elected Member of the 14th Parliament for Sembawang Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in September 2015, and re-elected in July 2020 in Sembawang GRC. Mr. Kung is also a Singaporean politician who has been serving under the governing People’s Action Party.
Like any Doctor in the Ugandan Health sector leadership, Prior to joining politics, he held various positions in Government, including Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, and Deputy Chief Negotiator for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. Though unlike them, his prior nationalism has been out of the health services.
Mr. Kung’s Singapore is a sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. Once a British colonial trading post, today it is a thriving global financial hub and described as one of Asia’s economic “tigers”. It is also renowned for its conservatism and strict local laws and the country prides itself on its stability and security, characters that tend to slightly equate it to Uganda.
The Singapore healthcare system is supervised by the Ministry of Health of the Singapore Government. just like in Uganda, It largely consists of a government-run publicly funded universal healthcare system, delivered through schemes such as Medisave, Medishield Life and Medifund, while also including a significant private healthcare sector.
Additionally, financing of healthcare costs in Singapore is done through a mixture of direct government subsidies, compulsory comprehensive savings, a national healthcare insurance, and cost sharing.
According to global consulting firm Towers Watson (now Willis Towers Watson), Singapore has “one of the most successful healthcare systems in the world, in terms of both efficiency in financing and the results achieved in community health outcomes” This has been attributed to a combination of a strong reliance on medical savings accounts, cost sharing, and government regulation.
The government of Singapore regularly adjusts policies to actively regulate “the supply and prices of healthcare services in the country” in an attempt to keep costs in check. However, for the most part, the government does not directly regulate the costs of private medical care unless necessary. These costs are largely subject to market forces, and vary enormously within the private sector, depending on the medical specialty and service provided.
Furthermore, Towers Watson states that the specific features of the Singapore healthcare system are unique, and have been described as a “Very difficult system to replicate in many other countries” Many Singaporeans also have supplemental private health insurance (often provided by employers) for services that may not be covered by the government’s programmes, such as cosmetic dentistry and some prescription drugs.
Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countries ranked Singapore the 4th healthiest country in the world and first in Asia. Singapore is ranked 1st on the Global Food Security Index in 2019. As of 2019, Singaporeans have the world’s longest life expectancy, 84.8 years at birth.
Health in Uganda refers to the health of the population of Uganda. The average life expectancy at birth of Uganda has increased from 59.9 years in 2013 to 63.4 years in 2019. This is lower than in any other country in the East African Community except Burundi and as of 2017, females had a life expectancy higher than their male counterparts of 69.2 versus 62.3.
The Uganda Ministry of Health conducts annual surveys that assess health system performance, and these have shown significant shortcomings in availability and quality of service. Customers complain about poor sanitation, a lack drugs and equipment, long wait times, rude service, and inadequate referrals. This uneven service discourages patients from seeking out professional care, especially in rural areas with longer travel times. The narrative of addressing the negatives of the surveys remains uncertain.
These shortcomings in the current public healthcare delivery system explain why 8,000 rural Ugandans will travel as far as 20 miles to attend private health services and medical camps. Since they know they will see a doctor, get properly diagnosed, receive treatment if possible, get referred to a hospital if not, and pick up the medicines they need before leaving. Ugandan private health entities are perceived with an outstanding reputation for efficient service, quality care, and patient satisfaction.
The ministry of Health is an innovative, people-centred organisation, committed to medical excellence, the promotion of good health, the reduction of illness, and access to good and affordable healthcare for all natives of a given state, appropriate to their needs.
Through health ministry, the Government manages the public healthcare system to ensure that good and affordable basic medical services are available to all it’s subjects in the names of citizens.
In Singapore, they achieve this by providing subsidised medical services while promoting individual responsibility for the costs of healthcare services.
While their population is encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle and take responsibility for their own health, safety nets are in place to ensure that no Singaporean is denied access to healthcare or turned away by public hospitals because of lack of money.
The biggest challenge for Uganda is inadequate resources. Uganda has five medical colleges and 29 nursing schools training people in Western medicine. Even so, there remains a shortage in healthcare workers, with only one doctor for every 8,300 Ugandans.
For God and my Country
*The writer is a social development enthusiast and a judicious youth leader from Nakaseke District.*