Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Voters in Kawempe North constituency in Kampala are disheartened by the total closure of Kawempe North Health Center, which was established by their jailed area Member of Parliament, Mohamed Ssegirinya.
The health center has been dysfunctional since December 23, 2022, due to the lack of funding. On Wednesday this week, management decided to close shop and donate the equipment and medicines in the facility to other health centers in the constituency.
Established in July 2021, the health center started experiencing challenges following the arrest and subsequent jailing of the legislator on a string of accusations including terrorism, attempted murder, and murder. The legislator has spent more than a year on remand.
Alex Luwemba, an administrator at the now defunct Kawempe North Health Center and Ssegirinya’s personal assistant told URN in a phone interview that the facility has been going through severe financial hardships, under which it couldn’t survive.
“The center required a monthly budget of more than Shillings 5 million, which we could not raise. Though predominantly the health center has been providing free services, we introduced payment of a nominal fee, reduced staff to 10 from 30, but still failed to raise the money,” he said.
According to Luwemba, the facility also suffered political interference as area politicians and government agencies sabotaged their efforts to find money to run the facility. “The facility had accumulated up to 10 million Shillings in rent arrears. Although we had agreed with our landlord on the payment plan, area politicians who are against the project bad-mouthed the project and the landlord changed his mind. Remember police had since barred us from rising money from the channels we thought could help,” Luwemba explained.
Locals are dismayed by the complete closure of the health center, which they say came along with numerous advantages to their community. Sarah Namuddu, who has been using this facility for her routine hypertension checks, says that since it was established near her home, it had saved her the trouble of moving a long distance to the previous health center where she was doing the checks from.
For other locals, Kawempe North Health Center has been a source of customers for their businesses. Justine Namtovu, a food vendor, says that her biggest clientele has been the patients at the health center, adding that she started her business as a result of seeing patients struggling to find food.
A boda boda rider, who preferred anonymity, said they established a stage next to the health center when it opened such that they could tap into its patients and staff who needed transport.
The ten-bed health center would receive an average of up to 175 outpatients every month. A former administrator also revealed that they could deliver at least five mothers every month.