Medical workers and patient caretakers at Kamuda Health Centre III in Soroti District are struggling to attend to patients in the night following the breakdown of the facility’s solar system.
The health centre, which serves more than 28,000 people with 45 deliveries every month, has since August last year been operating without power, forcing staff to improvise with phones or torches when attending to patients.
According to one of the health workers, who speaks on condition of anonymity because he is not the official spokesperson, the absence of proper lighting at the health unit makes it hard for us to administer treatment.
“To enable us perform well, every patient is now expected to buy a torch or have a phone that can improvise light,” the worker says, adding that they have tried to put the matter before their superiors to no avail.
The health workers say the situation at the maternity ward is worse because for every safe delivery to be achieved, total care must be undertaken with sufficient lighting.
“Our prayer is if at least the situation at the maternity ward can be fixed first, the better,” one medical officer appeals.
The area sub-county chairperson, Mr Daniel Eigu, says the problem has persisted for a long time and there seems to be no solution at hand to address it. He adds that recently, some solar batteries were fixed but they worked for less than two days and broke down again. “It is our appeal to the district to try to rectify the matter at hand, because we cannot continue to run a health unit in total darkness. This is risky for patients, especially mothers in labour,” Mr Eigu says.
Besides the power crisis, he says the health unit has only one midwife, who sometimes has more than five deliveries to attend to at ago.
“As a sub-county, we are in a crisis; we have put this matter before the district. We pray it is given the attention it deserves,” he adds.
Mr Calvin Elenyu, the district health secretary, says a meeting will sit on Saturday to address the issue.
“The issue has been brought to the attention of the District Health Officer (DHO) and we hope it will be addressed very soon,” he says, adding that Asuret Health Centre III also has a similar challenge.
Meanwhile, Buwenge Health Centre III in Jinja District, which handles about 80 patients daily, has been operating with one pit latrine for a year.
Dr Grace Meregulwa, a doctor at the facility, says there is only one pit latrine serving the Outpatient Department (OPD) following the closure of the main latrine.
The assistant medical superintendent, Mr Stephen Baligeya, says as a result, patients from other wards walk more than 60 metres to access the alternative latrine.
Mr Baligeya says the old pit latrine was closed because it was emitting a foul smell.
Now, former district vice chairman Moses Batwala has threatened to mobilise residents for a demonstration if nothing is done over the matter by mid this month.
“We have written to all concerned parties over the matter and if they fail to heed, we shall mobilise residents to demonstrate against the poor conditions at the health centre,” Mr Batwala said on Saturday.
However, the District Health Officer, Mr Samuel Diogo, says he is not aware of the problem at the centre and wonders why the in-charge had not communicated to the authorities.
The Buwenge Town Council health inspector, Mr Erisa Mingwa, describes situation at the health centre as unacceptable.
The Mayor, Mr Hassan Kinosa, says the health centre management committee has not communicated to them the challenge.
“The town council is responsible for health centre IIIs; so unless we get official communication from management, we cannot intervene,” Mr Kinosa says.
A 2015 Auditor General report revealed that most health centres in Jinja District did not meet basic minimum standards. The findings further revealed that Buwenge Health Centre IV had no budget for medicines and non-wage activities and lacked a medical pit.