A group of health professional has formed a coalition focused in revival of health ethics and professionalism in the health sector in Uganda. Advocates for Professionalism and Quality in Health (APROQUAH) Organization was established to mobilise willing stakeholders to start a crusade to revive professionalism in the medical practice in Uganda.
The APROQUAH Board of Trustees Chairperson, Professor George Kirya said that founder members are people who are recognized in the country because of their high level of professionalism.
Speaking at a public talk on the theme: Professionalism and Related Medico-Legal Challenges on March 20th at the Davis Lecture Theatre at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Prof. Kirya said that the most common complaints related to professionalism among health workers in Uganda include;
Rudeness, late coming, absenteeism, seniors not supervising their juniors, health workers not being smart in dress, not attending to clinics, poor communication, bribery and stealing of medicines.
He added that the contributing factors include;
Low pay, lack of accommodation, poor working environment, moral decay in the general population, weak professional councils, weak professional bodies, low morale, students trained not properly selected by not considering their personal attributes and shortage of roles models.
The Chairperson Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners├ö├ç├û Council (UMDPC) Associate Professor Joel Okullo said some of the challenges in medical practice today are; patients signing what they do not know, doctors not knowing the limits of what they can do and working above their level of competence. He also mentioned poor communication that can open one to litigation because of the negative effect it may have on the patient. ├ö├ç┬úMedical errors are real and if you have not yet committed them, you are not yet a medical doctor. Some errors are man-made, while others are circumstances of the system├ö├ç├ÿ, he said.
Prof. Okullo advised medical practitioners especially those starting out to respect the structures in place and get registered with the UMDPC so that they do not get caught on the wrong side of their work. ├ö├ç┬úWe have had to de-register some of our colleagues which is a very painful decision├ö├ç├ÿ, he said.
He also noted that while the number of medical schools in Uganda is growing, some have curricula that are below par.
The President Uganda Law Society Mrs. Ruth Sebatindira gave a brief of the general legal framework that guides the practice of medicine in Uganda. She said medical practitioners are the people expected to implement all constitutional rights related to right to health and life.
She highlighted some prominent medico-legal challenges including those arising from performing a procedure one is not qualified to perform, causing physical damage as a result of surgical procedure, and performing procedures without the patients├ö├ç├û consent. Interestingly, falling asleep during a procedure was also mentioned as a common medico-legal challenge.
Ms. Sebatindira said the relationship between patient and doctor is contractual where the doctor undertakes to provide professional services with reasonable skills and care. She said while all medical treatments involve some degree of risk, endless and frivolous litigation could lead to defensive medical practice.
Speaking about ├ö├ç├┐Professionalism and Ethics in Clinical Care├ö├ç├û, Prof. Samuel Luboga pointed out that medicine is a calling, self-sacrifice, love and tenderness. ├ö├ç┬úOnce it moves to pure business, your influence as a professional is gone├ö├ç├ÿ.
The public talk was also attended by DR. Jack Jagwe; a retired practitioner (after 50 years of service), who called upon young professionals to take patients as their priority, while maintaining the highest standards of practicing. He empasised the importance of reading and updating oneself through seminars and other such events.