The Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute has admitted that some of his juniors solicit or accept bribes from desperate patients but urged them to report the corrupt health workers to him for disciplinary action.
Dr. Jackson Orem, told this reporter in an interaction that some doctors at the cancer institute have in the past callously turned away patients in dire conditions simply because they failed to raise the money they had asked from them.
“They [health workers] even threaten some patients against reporting them to my office promising them even worse treatment and that is why we can’t stop fighting it, ” Orem confirmed.
But Orem, who insisted that cancer treatment services at the Cancer Institute in Mulago are free of charge, urged patients not to get intimidated by the health workers but instead take the complaints to his office directly.
Orem said: “If any doctor asks you for a bribe in exchange for treatment or any service here, kindly please don’t fear coming to my office or wherever you may find me and report immediately so that I will be able to take the necessary action,” Orem said.
Orem made the remarks shortly after the commissioning last week of an adult section at the Fred Hutch Institute at Mulago National Referral Hospital. The new buildings as well as some equipments at the Uganda Cancer Institute were funded by the Fred Hutch Foundation, an American non-profit dedicated to the research and treatment of cancer around the world.
Despite the grim reports of corruption, Dr. Orem had reason to smile at the inauguration of the adult section of the cancer institute which he said would greatly reduce congestion at the institute while also helping to improve service delivery.
“I have no doubt that the president will also get extremely happy when he will get the news that this section of the facility he commissioned is now fully operational, ” Orem added.
According to Orem, the adult wing was built to suit international standards and has labs, examination rooms and chemotherapy infusion rooms all fitted with brand new modern medical tools and furniture.
The development has brought relief to the medical workers who have been putting up with narrow space at the old facility adjacent to the new one in the face of overwhelmingly numbers of patients being received at the out patients section on a daily basis.
According to one nurse Janet Nongoma Kwiri who is in charge of the outpatients’ wing, the commissioning of the adult section is a major cause of celebration.
She told The Sunrise that the old facility just adjacent to the new building could accommodate cancer patients only until the year 2000. But since then, the number of cancer patients has quadrupled to about 10-17 new cancer cases being received at the clinic daily.
“There has been a lot of pressure on a very small facility but with the transfer of the clinic to this spacious facility we are very happy that our work in cancer treatment is going to be easier and more effective,” Nangoma said.
Alfonse Nfulangani, one of the cancer patients from Kamuli district, expressed gratitude to the donors for making it possible for cancer patients in Uganda to access expensive cancer drugs free of charge.
“All of us know how expensive cancer treatment is to the extent that drugs being prescribed to us would be completely out of reach with many us. But we are so thankful that we can now get them here free of charge,” Nfulangani said.
Making this new wing accessible to the public, means that the state of the art cancer facility is now fully functional with three independent wings including the first two sections of research and paediatrics (children ward) which started operating since the May 2016.
Magdalene Kintu, the site administrator representing the Fred hutch foundation which funded the construction of the facility told The Sunrise that the full functioning of the facility is a landmark in the cancer treatment and research in Uganda.
“We are very happy and optimistic that this facility will advance the clinical care of infection related cancers and clinical research in this country,” Kintu said.