Luwero, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Luwero District Health Officer, Dr Innocent Nkonwa has expressed concern that a section of health workers at Luwero hospital, the district’s main health facility are fighting the reopening of the private wing.
The private wing at the government facility was opened months after the facility had been elevated from a health center 4 to a hospital status in the financial year 2019/2020.
But in May 2021, the District Council passed a resolution suspending the operations of the private wing due to complaints that staff were neglecting the non-paying patients and only attending to the paying ones in the private wing.
Dithan Kikabi, the then district speaker also said that the money which was being collected at the private wing had remained unaccounted for, something which raised more suspicion that this is intended to selfishly benefit the health workers who man it.
But patients started complaining about the medics’ becoming extortionist, to the extent of causing death. Two cases of mothers dying in labor allegedly due to medics extortionist malpractices stood out.
The first case was on January 15, 2021 when Specioza Nabasinga, 36, a resident of Kakabala village in Butuntumula sub county died at Luwero hospital. Her family claimed that she died because of their failure to raise the 200,000 Shillings demanded by a doctor to operate on her. The second was on Friday February 25, 2021 when Susan Nanfuma, 30, checked in at Luwero hospital with labour pains. However, doctors pronounced her dead at around 10 pm on Saturday night after delivery through a C-section.
The deceased’s husband Vincent Mugerwa, said when his wife checked in at the hospital, a doctor asked for 300,000 Shillings to conduct a C-section on her. Mugerwa said that although he was against paying the money because they were at a government hospital and supposed to get free services, he gave in due to desperation. He explained that at around 9:30pm, doctors asked him to look around for the blood because his patient needed it after the operation.
Mugerwa said that he rushed to Bishop Ceaser Asili Memorial hospital which is about half a kilometer away, where he received a phone call informing him that his wife had died.
The public outcry saw the district council convene at Africa Guest House in Luwero town council on Friday, May 7, 2021, and resolved to suspend the operations of the private wing with immediate effect saying it had contributed to extortion of money from patients.
Ronald Ndawula, the then district LCV chairman said that he had received numerous complaints from residents that those without money can’t access services yet the facility is primarily a public hospital meant to offer free services. Ndawula emphasized that the purpose of elevating the hospital was to enable poor patients access better services at free costs but not for profits.
Now as district authorities continue to conduct a study to see the resumption of this private wing with transparency in its operations, Dr Nkonwa has said that some health workers are covertly fighting the move.
According to Dr Nkonwa, those behind this fight are the extortive medics who have for months been profiting from illicitly charging patients at the hospital meant to offer free services.
Luwero district LCV chairman Erastus Kibirango shares a related experience. According to Kibirango, he recently met several workers at Luwero hospital and asked them who wants the private wing reinstated. He says the response was wanting when only about three replied that it should be reopened.
Kibirango says the issue of the private wing is still a big challenge because most workers are seemingly not ready to embrace it, that they can’t even own it, something that can still see its services be the same as those that prompted its suspension.
Asked by URN about Dr Nkonwa’s claim that some medics are fighting the reopening of the private wing, no health worker was willing to say a word.