By Hannah Marion Namukasa
Parliament has approved a US$70 million loan for the construction of a state of the art facility to house the Uganda Heart institute.
A loan request brought by government to collectively borrow US$70 million from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, Saudi Fund for Development and the Opec Fund for International Development sailed through following unanimous approval from Members of Parliament.
Parliament’s Committee on National Economy scrutinized the loan request and approved it with recommendations.
“…the committee therefore, recommends that the request by government to borrow [up to $70 million] for the construction and equipping of the Uganda Heart Institute Project be approved subject to the recommendations herein,” said Committee Vice Chairperson, Hon. Robert Migadde.
Migadde however, asked government to renegotiate the loan terms to ensure flexible payment terms.
“The committee recommends that there is need for the Ministry of Finance to engage the financiers with a view of improving the financial terms to more concessional or semi concessional terms…in particular increasing the repayment period of the BADEA and OPEC proposed loans to20 years,” he said.
Challenges facing the Uganda Heart Institute in the execution of its mandate, said Migadde, informed the approval of the loan.
“The committee recommends that going forward, government addresses the immediate constraints that is, inadequate working space and medical infrastructure in order to build a strong foundation for the Uganda Heart Institute for it to become a centre of excellence in cardiovascular medical services,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa asked the Uganda Heart Institute to utilize the loan well and ensure the centre stands to serve the multitude of patients with heart problems.
“We lose 500 children every year because they have the expertise but they don’t have the facilities to do it; you can save that Ugandan who cannot go to Kenya; the decision is yours,” he said adding that, ’this loan started in the 10th Parliament; one of the demands was their independent home where they will be able to take on and carry out sophisticated surgeries’.
Hon. Lucy Akello (FDC, Amuru District) endorsed the loan as a journey to unburden families troubled by health care challenges.
“Every money that we borrow must be put to good use; there are families that cannot even afford Shs50,000 . I hope when we have our own centre and, our people will not suffer,” she said.
Kabale Municipality MP, Dr. Nicholas Kamara said the approval will come in handy given the growing statistics of people suffering from non-communicable diseases.
“I have been to Uganda Heart Institute many times and I have seen the constraints; we are in a demographic transition where non-communicable diseases are accounting for more deaths,” he said.