Health experts are urging the government to regulate assistive technologies, including wheelchairs, and other rehabilitative care devices in Uganda. Concerns have been raised about the quality and suitability of some donated devices, which may not meet standards or be properly prescribed. Sam Tukei Ojulo, a rehabilitation expert and Country Director of the USAID-funded program ReLAB-HS, emphasized the importance of regulation to ensure proper diagnosis and prescription by qualified professionals.
Despite the vital role assistive devices play in rehabilitation, inadequate regulation and oversight have led to the influx of faulty devices, particularly in regions like Northern Uganda. Limited funding for orthopedic services in district hospitals has forced patients to seek services from less qualified individuals, exacerbating the problem. Additionally, there is a lack of attention and dedicated budget lines for assistive devices within the health sector.
Dr. Samuel Opio, Deputy Chairperson of the Health Committee of Parliament, highlighted the lack of data and funding allocation for assistive technologies. While officials in the Ministry of Health acknowledged the gap, they cited limited budgets as a constraint to addressing the issue. Expeditious Ahimbisibwe, Principal Health Economist at the Ministry of Health, stated the need for substantial funding to improve access to functional devices, such as wheelchairs.
Experts have identified gaps in rehabilitative care across Uganda, including insufficient product designs and limited availability of specialized services. While rehabilitative care is essential for a significant portion of the population, services are mainly concentrated at tertiary-level facilities, leaving many in remote areas underserved. Organizations like CoRSU in Wakiso play a crucial role in providing quality rehabilitative services, but specialists in this field remain scarce nationwide.