MUBENDE- Patients and health workers at Kasambya Health Centre IV in Mubende District have deserted the facility after two medical practitioners were arrested over soliciting bribes from patients.
The suspects, both female, were arrested last weekend after an investigation by a team from the State House Medical and Health Services Delivery Monitoring Unit revealed that some health workers ask for bribes in exchange for government drugs.
According to Dr Diana Atwine Kanzira, the director of the Unit, several people have complained about health workers in government facilities in Mubende asking for money in exchange for services.
“Many heath workers have turned selling government drugs into a business. This is illegal. We shall not relent until we completely fight the vice,” Dr Atwine said.
She said the most sold drugs are anti-malarials and ARVs.
Dr Atwine revealed this while addressing an impromptu meeting for both health workers and patients at Kasambya Health Centre IV.
Patients narrated how they are forced to pay or services –something they say has been a practice at the health centre for years.
Dr Atwine also said Mama Kits are sold to expectant mothers adding that some health workers unpack the kits and sell the contents separately.
She said the medics sell the cotton wool at Shs1,500, gauze (Shs5,000), polythene paper (Shs5,000)and gloves (Shs1,500).
“We trapped the health workers by giving money to some patients to give to them when they asked, and we succeeded. Since the currency notes had been photocopied, it was easy to identify them by looking at the serial numbers and we arrested the health workers,” Dr Atwine said.
Ms Agnes Birungi, a patient said: “I came here to deliver my baby but I was asked to pay for everything yet this is a government facility.”
During the meeting, one of the health workers said they don’t charge patients intentionally but as a mutual arrangement between the workers and patients to pay some facilitation to ‘volunteers’ who help deliver the medicine in time due to the limited number of staff at the health centre.
About the expectant mothers, the health worker said they don’t charge them but rather ask them to buy some drugs in case they are not readily available in the health centre store.
Dr Atwine warned that similar on-the-spot inspections are going to be carried out in other health centres in the district to weed out unscrupulous medics.
“This should stand as a warning to all the health units in Uganda that whoever indulges in selling government drugs and services will be charged accordingly because all government services are free,” she said.
Drugs sold in neighbouring countries
Theft of government drugs has become a rampant vice. Last month, authorities in Lwengo District suspended four medical officers in connection with theft of government drugs.
Last year, the State House Health Monitoring Unit revealed that many government medicines, especially those stolen from health centres are being sold in DR Congo, South Sudan and Kenya.
The State House Monitoring Unit was established by President Museveni in 2010 to check theft of medical supplies from public health facilities.