Friday, December 30, 2011


Mothers and their attendants sit in the corridor in Mulago Hospital maternity ward awaiting discharge. This was during yesterday’s visit by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, and other legislators who were on a fact-finding mission on the hospital’s services. Photo by Stephen Otage
By Yasiin Mugerwa (email the author)

Posted Friday, December 30 2011 at 00:00

It is now a month, but Ms Harriet Akite, who came to Mulago Hospital looking for fibroids treatment, is still waiting for a doctor. She has not recovered, still struggles to speak, but is now looking for Shs100,000 to take her back to Apac. She was given a rusty bed in the corridors of Oncology Ward. More so, it is lunch time but Ms Akite is eating porridge.
She embodies the predicament of many Ugandans who seek medical service at country’s national referral hospital, Mulago. In the Labour Ward, expectant mothers are packed in dilapidated and tiny leaking rooms, and in Ward 4A, patients and their relatives use a single toilet. At the Cancer Institute, patients are put on drip while seated because beds are not enough.
The disclosure of the extent of the rot at the national referral hospital emerged yesterday when the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, led a delegation of Shadow Cabinet members on a fact-finding mission at the hospital where they came face-to-face with reality.
“They are forcing us to buy medicine yet we don’t have the money. The doctors are telling us to blame government why can’t you help us,” a man in General Paediatric Ward shouted to the MPs.
“The sick people are sleeping on the floor yet others are getting treatment while standing,” Mr Mafabi said. “Mulago Hospital is sick and needs urgent help before it’s too late. Our people are suffering and what goes on in this hospital is unacceptable. One nurse is attending to 80 patients. If Mulago is sick how about other hospitals?”

Where is the problem?
The hospital executive director, Dr Byarugaba Baterana, bemoaned the congestion and understaffing.
“Poor staff remuneration is a serious challenge. Currently staffs get Shs110,000 consolidated allowances monthly. This should be increased to at least 330,000 to motivate them. But the hospital budget doesn’t permit this. Food is medicine but with our recurrent expenditure we can’t feed patients. Patients diversion to nearby clinics is another challenge the hospital is facing.”
However, Health ministry Permanent Secretary Asuman Lukwago said ideological objective is what is lacking in Mulago, adding that government has secured a loan of $88 million (about Shs200b) from the African Development Bank to rehabilitate Mulago. To decongest Mulago, two hospitals under Kampala Capital City Authority will be constructed in Kawempe and Kiruddu.
While Mr Mafabi and Dr Lulume Bayiga, the shadow health minister, promised to take the fight to Parliament, the Deputy Executive Director, Dr Doreen Birabwa apologised for the shortcomings at the hospital.

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