Many children die
According to national figures the eastern region ranks high in malnutrition. While the 2016 Demographic Health Survey puts the national burden at 29%, but up to 50% of children admitted in hospitals in Busoga region are severely malnourished.
Latest figures shared by Dr. Samalie Namukose, the principal Nutritionist at Ministry of Health, show that for instance 53% of children are anemic in the Busoga region and that many children there are born below 2.5kgs. Even those that are born above the normal birth weight, Namukose said soon become malnourished at about nine months of age.With these figures, children wards in the area are always filling with patients. Many of the children die.
Peter Dyogo Nantamu the District Health Officer (DHO) Jinja says, as a result, mothers are always desperate for help and when anyone comes up, they tend to run to them without a second thought.
Dyogo shut down Bach’s nutrition center in Jinja in 2015. This was after piling complaints about her enticing patients to leave Nalufenya Children’s Hospital before completing their doses to her clinic and that she was carrying out medical procedures that could at times turn out disastrous to patients.
Dyogo says the sense he got then was that Renee did not believe that Ugandan medical doctors knew what they were doing. He says complaints from her own medical staff kept coming to his office that she ignored their advice on prescriptions and diagnosis.
She treated severe acute malnutrition, tuberculosis, malaria,pediatric HIV, metabolic imbalances, anemia, parasites like Jiggers and hypoglycemia; a condition where blood sugar decreases to below normal levels. She would connect drips, do blood transfusions, and put patients on oxygen.
Then, the DHO made a spot visit on the facility and directed its closure realizing that both the clinic and its managers were not registered as a medical facility or professionals but as an NGO.
“It was a private entity at that time. I was surprised to hear that it is now operating under government. I don’t know how that happened,” Dyogo said on Feb.13 in a telephone interview with The Independent. He was cagey and asked us to instead of inquiring about the past consult with officials in Mayuge.
When asked, the district Health Officer Mayuge, Charles Nabangi said there’s an MOU between the health facility and Bach’s nutrition center at Kigandaalo HC IV. He could not give details of the MoU.
“I don’t know the details in the MOU. I don’t know the latest from that facility,” he said.
Kayaga says Nabangi might have just deliberately refused to divulge this information.
“Bach seems to be well connected. Many district leaders refused to talk to us too when we visited. We heard that the lady never made any record of the patients she was seeing.I went there but I was denied access to the facility,” Kayaga says.
Other sources who asked not to be named said the Office of the Prime Minister has warned those against Bach’s facility “not to antagonize people who are helping the country”.
Medical centres not supervised
At the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, the Registrar Dr. Ssentongo Katumba says Bach’s story speaks to a general problem of systems failure. For him, it’s the responsibility of government to ensure that such entities that come up are registered by professional bodies.
He warns that with the loopholes in surveillance and other weaknesses like lack of supplies, it’s up to Ugandans to be vigilant and beware of people who come as helpers in the community since many of them have a hidden agenda. In 2015, he says Bach approached them complaining about Dyogo’s move to close her facility in Jinja. He says after an investigation it was decided that the facility remains closed.
He says the local government in Mayuge needed to double check SHC’s record before allowing working with them. He suspects the reason it was taken to a government facility is because not a lot of regulation happens there.
Such happenings to him should be a wakeup call for government to improve.
“Many poor countries are suffering because of that white savior complex. We need to be very tough in regulation. We have heard stories of countries disposing of radioactive things in the name of donating medical equipment,” Katumba says.
On their part as the medical council, he says, they have tried to tighten the noose; especially with a 2017 scenario in Mengo hospital where heart surgeries went bad. To open a facility like Bach’s, one is now required to fill a form endorsed by district authorities, an APL of the supervising doctor who has not less than three years of experience and a duly filled commitment letter by a supervising doctor. And, when it’s a foreigner involved, in addition to academic certificates, they should have a letter of invitation from the place they hope to operate in Uganda, a certificate of good standing and clearance by Interpol.
For now however, the petitioners want court to completely close the facility and compensate mothers who lost their children. The case comes up on March 12 in Jinja.