THE LAST WORD: The lesson from pictures of many newly born babies packed on beds and chairs at Kawempe Hospital
THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Last week, someone took pictures of Kawempe Hospital with a multitude of newly born babies laying on congested hospital beds and plastic chairs. This provided considerable grist for the anti-President Yoweri Museveni and anti-government of Uganda mill. As expected, Uganda’s chattering elites went wild on social and other media; they denounced government for its corruption, incompetence and selfishness with self-righteous indignation.
We have highly exaggerated expectations of our poverty stricken and revenue starved governments. This is based on ignorance of our states’ capabilities. When this is combined with excessive prejudice about our governments, it turns self-righteous indignation into a toxic mixture of emotional debates and bad public policy.
Journalists who cannot get basic facts right or write proper grammar or spell words correctly or punctuate their sentences properly expect and demand that laboratory technicians get their diagnosis right, nurses be competent to a fault and teachers and policemen do similar. It never occurs to them that their mistakes as journalists and pundits, just like those of nurses, doctors and policemen, are a reflection of low levels of skills i.e. poor human capital.
I want to criticize this behavior with a lot of humility because for many years I was a leading priest of this attitude. Then I reached the road to Damascus. Over the years of self-reflection, it became apparent to me that we need to change our mindset. This realisation came in large part because I became deeply conscious of my own weaknesses. Once this happened, I felt liberated from self-righteous anger and what it leads to – the delusion that I am perfect and everyone else is incompetent and corrupt.
Ladies and Gentlemen
2225 deaths of Babies at “Kawempe Hospital” in One Year.
That is about 185 deaths of babies a month.
86 deaths of mothers a year.
7 deaths a month.
Is this still worthy the tag “Hospital” or it is a death trap
Let us dismantle it. pic.twitter.com/wJ7iGbpsNd
— Ivan Bwowe (@BwoweIvan) September 1, 2019
Yet the paradox is that the pictures of kids congested on beds and plastic chairs at Kawempe Hospital are evidence of success, not failure, of the Ugandan healthcare system. They demonstrate increasing public confidence in public health facilities. Ugandan mothers used to deliver babies at home in the attendance of relatives, neighbours and/or traditional doctors.
According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), in 2001 only 37% of mothers were delivering babies in a health facility. However, in 2006, this number had increased to 42%. In 2011 it had jumped to 57% and then 73% in 2016. We can infer from this rate of growth that it has increased to 83% today. This must be a product of two things.
First, there is increased access to health facilities as government has built many Health Centers even in the far reaches of the country. Today 86% of our population lives within 5km of a health facility mostly owned by government. Second, that there is increasing public confidence in our public health facilities – that is why people are flocking there and the facilities are getting overwhelmed. In the specific case of Kawempe Hospital, it was designed for a smaller capacity, and is now overwhelmed by the closure of Mulago for renovations.