Dealing with the surge in people jumping to their death

The day was Sunday. The time was 12pm. Sulaiman Kasujja, a lorry driver on Ggaba Road, decided to end his life. He jumped off the sixth floor of Mulago hospital and died instantly.

Wednesday June 26 2013

Mulago hospital has of recent become one of the

Mulago hospital has of recent become one of the places where people jump off the building in suicide attempts. PHOTO BY Stephen Otage 

By Abdulaziizi K. Tumusiime

The day was Sunday. The time was 12pm. Sulaiman Kasujja, a lorry driver on Ggaba Road, decided to end his life. He jumped off the sixth floor of Mulago hospital and died instantly. Back at his home, Sarah Nanfuka, his wife, thought that Kasujja was at work, because that is what he had told her. She realised otherwise when the police called and informed her that Kasujja had committed suicide at the hospital.

This year, Kasujja, was the first entry in the hospital records of people who have committed suicide from its buildings. Hardly 10 days after the first case, two more cases have been added to the list. Moses Mukwaya who was a malaria patient and Kenneth Muhumuza who was battling a heart disease also jumped to their death. Kampala is a city of many skyscrapers. Buildings that boast of more floors than the sheer six, that Mulago has. After appreciating this, the question that begs to be answered is; why do people prefer Mulago?

Enock Kusasira, the hospital’s public relations officer, says the nature of the services Mulago offers explains why people commit suicide there.

“This is a national referral hospital. We deal with the critically sick. Patients who are suffering from terminal illnesses like Cancer, HIV and Tuberculosis. Some patients come when their situation has degenerated from bad to worse. If it is a HIV positive patient, they may not have been taking ARVs. Or, they may not have been counselled on how to deal with the news that they are positive. When accepting reality becomes hard for such a patient, they find ending their lives the best solution. Unfortunately, they do it here,” says Kusasira.

He adds, “There are other people who come here with the sole purpose of completing their suicide mission. These people are not recorded anywhere as our patients. An example is Kasujja. Such individuals are psychologically traumatised. It could be because of indebtedness (it is alleged that the lorry driver was), poverty or unemployment. ”
I ask Kusasira why people like Kasujja do not opt to go to other building such as Kampala Sheraton or Crested Towers which have more floors than the hospital’s. He replies; “My assumption is that it makes a case to die at a hospital than anywhere else. And maybe, the deceased do not want to disturb their relatives with the posthumous handling since the hospital has the facilities to do so.”

Why choose Mulago?
But a one Husna Nakalema thinks there are bigger issues. On her facebook wall, she posted a comment: “We are beginning to see the secondary consequences of the mess at Mulago. So, when patients do not find drugs or are not attended to, they prefer dying at the hospital to reach out to the public that they have nowhere else to go since. Anyway, how about the administration putting burglar-proofs?”

When I share Nakalema’s suggestion with Kusasira, he informs me that it is not possible to put burglar proofs in the hospital’s