In Northern Uganda “ICT 4 health service delivery” project used technological approach to empower the communities. Through the empowerment, the communities were able to engagement and participate in monitoring and demanding for better health service delivery. The main awareness media technological tools that were used included the local FM radio programs which informed, educated and empowered over 7000 people in and out of the target districts in a period of 12 months, TIU managed a Toll free call center that the communities used for reporting health centre irregularities, for onward action by duty bearers.
Health services remain a great need for many communities and the only facilities that most of them can afford are government health centers which provide free health care services. Most health centers like Ogur, Aromo and Anyeke in Northern Uganda are visited by patients from as far as 24 kilometers. In most cases they ride bicycles to and from the health centers. it is often disappointing for such a patient to reach the health center and find it still locked even by 10:00am. In most occasions, even when the health center is open, some health workers are absent while most drugs are lacking.
Concerning drug stock out, most health service users allege that the drugs are stolen by health workers, while the health workers allege that they always never received enough consignment of requested drugs, however during voluntary accountability committee (VACs) members and Health management committee joint review meetings that were held in the target health centers, health management committees pointed out that drugs supply have improved both in quantity and delivery period which is now one month compared to the past years where it would take 3 months to receive drugs consignments, VACs and health management committee members who participated in verification of delivered drugs confirmed that drugs supply have increased.
Before this project intervention, health service users were given medication regardless of whether they were sick or not, but depending on the judgment of the health worker because the lab testing tools were lacking. . However the situation is now changing, health centers are now strictly dispensing drugs with diagnosis supported with lab test results; at health centers where either the lab technicians or assistant are missing, efforts are being put in place to ensure that laboratories are fully operational.
In the maternity wards most health centers did not have adequate and skilled midwives, lacked electricity power (Agulurude, Barr, Aromo) supply and alternative fuel power generators. The District was blamed for delays in effecting the required facility repairs and provisions. A case in point was that of Harriet who visited Aromo health center III and lamented that “when we come to deliver at night, the health workers ask us to go and buy paraffin for the lamp which is used in the maternity”.
Health workers also have challenges that they face, that hinder their work. A case in point was Maureen a Midwife at Aromo Health centre III who called the toll free call center and said, “If it were not because of the love for my people and profession I would have left this Job, the pay is too little to cater for my family needs, I work in an area where people do not appreciate what I do for them. I am the only available midwife at this health center, I have to work for 24 hours without any off duty allocation, sincerely which normal human being can cope up with this working condition”
In response to this very urgent need expressed by Maureen through call center, Transparency International Uganda forwarded the outcry to the District Health Officer recommending that additional midwives be provided. As a result two midwives were posted to Aromo health center III, call center (technology) helped Maureen at no cost to report challenges that she and the health center face.