MPs noted that currently there is only one documented geriatrician in the country based at the Mulago National Referral Hospital.

“We need to speed up the process to get geriatricians trained. I only know one person in Kampala, so what is happening in other areas? Older persons, are lonely, suffer from depression and a range of illnesses that require special medical attention,” said Rachel Magoola (NRM, District Woman Representative, Bugweri).

MPs were debating a statement by the Minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development (Elderly Affairs), Hon. Dominic Gidudu, on the International Day for Older Persons, which was commemorated on 01 October 2023 in Kyegegwa District.

The minister affirmed that the country had only one geriatrician and that plans to introduce specialised courses in universities on the treatment of older persons had commenced.

“Makerere University School of Public Health commenced on the post-graduate curriculum for a geriatrics course. The course is expected to build a cadre of doctors to offer a proper diagnosis for older persons’ health conditions,” said Gidudu.

Nyabushozi County MP, Hon. Wilson Kajwengye, argued for affirmative action for admission of students who would apply for geriatric courses at universities and at the point of recruitment of medics by the Ministry of Health.

“I want to propose that Makerere University gives special preference during admission to students doing geriatric medicine and the same to be deployed by the Ministry of Health during recruitment of geriatric doctors,” said Kajwengye.

Minister Dominic Gidudu responding to concerns of MPs during plenary on Tuesday, 10 October 2023

Kabale Municipality MP, Dr Nicholas Kamara, said the elderly were at a higher risk of exposure to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and hypertension which have left many blind, amputated and with more life-threatening diseases such as stroke.

MPs observed that older persons suffer exclusion in communities and that most are in continual conflicts over property leading most to depression and other forms of mental illness.  They proposed that in addition to the training of doctors, village health teams (VHTs) be trained and deployed to offer palliative care.

“I am proposing that we should have VHTs trained to routinely monitor older persons, most whom cannot walk by themselves to the health facilities. We need also village clubs for elders for simple exercises such as dances, and sports; these could help on depression that most suffer,” said Hon. Juliet Kinyamatama (Indp., District Woman Representative, Rakai).

The Minister of Information, Communication, Technology and National Guidance, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, said the increased life expectancy denotes an increase in the number of older persons in future, saying training of medics to offer specialised treatment for the elderly is timely.

He said life expectancy has increased to 63 per cent and revealed that Cabinet had already received a Bill on older persons and called on MPs support once it is tabled.