Leaders in Gulu District have expressed concern over rising maternal mortality rate at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.
This comes amidst the latest death on July 21, of Sunday Achiro, 24, from the hospital.
The district executive committee consequently called for immediate investigations into circumstances leading to the deaths.
A source, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said at least 18 mothers have since January 2011 died at the hospital’s maternity wing.
An eyewitness Christine Ayugi, who was admitted at the maternity ward where Aciro died, said the deceased was put on oxygen after she fainted during labour pains.
“All the nurses were not around when she died while struggling on her own after complaining against the midwives’ continuous absence for hours,” Ms Ayugi said, She said women who arrived at the ward with complications were advised to visit private clinics in town due to the absence of the maternity’s staff on duty.
The district executive committee, during a meeting last week, asked for an immediate institution of an inquiry into the deaths allegedly caused by negligence of the health workers.
Mr Isaac Newton Ojok, the district vice chairman, said it is regrettable that mothers continue to die from the region’s referral hospital when there are staff to prevent the deaths. “We found her [Aciro] body uncovered for many hours. There have been recorded cases of harassment and absenteeism from duty of some health staff,” Mr Ojok said, explaining that the investigation would result into harsh punishment to those implicated.
It was also discovered by the committee that the day Aciro succumbed to her labor pains, the nurse who was supposed to be on duty, did not report to work for unclear reasons. “They report for few hours and disappear,” Mr Christopher Ateker, a member of the committee, said, adding that some even ask for money in order to render services. But the Hospital Director, Dr Anthony Onyachi, has since denied all the allegations.
Dr Onyachi said people always blame medical workers when things go wrong. “Some people bring very sick patients late to the hospital making it hard for the health staff to rescue their situations,” Dr Onyachi said. Meanwhile, the district local council has summoned Dr Onyachi to appear before the committee on social services on Tuesday to brief it on the status of the hospital.
Last year, the hospital records show 400 patients died from the facility, a quarter from the maternity ward. The hospital receives about 18, 000 in-patients and about 170,000 out-patients annually. Uganda has progressed in proportion of deliveries by skilled health personnel over the last five years from 42 per cent in 2006 to 59 per cent in 2011 according to statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.