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Root of Mulago’s Rot Revealed

Analysis

Root of Mulago’s Rot Revealed

Mulago hospital currently under renovation is a source of shame for Uganda

A fortnight ago, Uganda’s national referral hospital’s lone machine had stopped working months back.

Our next option was to look for an alternative place outside Mulago where we could have the procedure taken. Doctors on duty informed us that there were numerous options but most of them relatively costly, but not unaffordable. Time sadly ran out on Lukaawa before we could transfer him to any nearby hospital.

We are not alone. Thousands of Ugandans have endured Mulago’s dehumanising conditions and many continue to die at the hospital because of lack of essential facilities, poor hygiene, congestion and lack of attention from healthcare providers.

Mulago’s broken scan reflects deeper crisis in the country’s top hospital and indeed, as many have noted, the entire healthcare system in the country. At Ward 2B in Mulago where the late Lukaawa had been admitted, the water system had all but broken down. Water flowed from a broken sink and flooded the floor beneath the doctors’ desks sending the medics away from their workstations.

The toilets just behind the ward were in an even deplorable state producing foul smell because they could not flush.

Last year President Yoweri Museveni launched rehabilitation works for Mulago hospital, a job that was contracted to Roko Construction at US$40m. As part of the rehabilitation exercise, some sections of the hospital such as the causality unit were shifted to the wards’ wing.

Mulago administrators have praised the government upon its gesture to improve the state of affairs at the hospital. But some patients and other Ugandans remain highly pessimistic about the future of the hospital.

The absence of basic equipments such as CT scan, radiology machines and many others used in the diagnoses or treatment of major diseases, have led many to ask whether the hospital shouldn’t in fact be downgraded to an ordinary level hospital.

This week, Wilfred Murumba, Dr. Kizza Besigye’s lawyer died at Mulago due to a two-day delay that arose from doctors mixing up the patient’s blood samples. Dr. Kizza Besigye called for an overhaul of the country’s health system.

But others believe the problem is not just with Mulago or other state-run health centres, but rather with the Ugandan population that continues to support a government that has relegated the health of Ugandans.

Dr. Lulume Bayiga, the shadow minister for health and  Buikwe County South MP says that Mulago’s ‘absurd’ situation is acknowledged by many Ugandans including ministry of health officials.

“We have talked and talked about Mulago’s decay and the government now accepts this fact. Unfortunately, the government is not willing to offer solutions,” Bayiga adds: “The proposed reduction in the health budget in the coming financial year from 8% to 6.7% of the total budget allocation is further indication that health is not a priority for government.”

But Bayiga argues that rather than blaming the government, he blames the Ugandan population that continues to tolerate poor service delivery.

“The news is not the decay but the lack of outrage from the population. How can people keep quiet about a dysfunctional healthcare system?” asked Bayiga.

A number of observers compare problems in the public education sector, especially in Universal Primary Education to those in the health sector, only that death is the sad outcome of a dead healthcare system.

The government continues to resist findings that call for a radical shift from free-for-all approach to a cost-sharing arrangement in the health sector. According to Bayiga, Ugandans are already paying above 65% of the total expenditure on health, from their own pockets.

Bayiga argues that the continuing collapse of facilities and ebbing morale among healthcare workers at Mulago and several other government health institutions is a consequence of that government denial but more importantly perhaps, the public’s willingness to live with it.

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