One of the images that has come to symbolise the current lockdown is the photo of a nurse who wheeled a patient for about 2kms from Ediofe Health Centre III in Pajulu Sub-county in Arua District, to Arua Regional Referral Hospital on Saturday.
The health centre had failed to obtain an ambulance yet the patient required urgent attention.
After the photo was widely circulated on social media, reports emerged that Ms Doris Okudinia, the nurse, was being threatened by some district officials who said she acted unprofessionally.
The enrolled nurse, who works at Ediofe Health Centre, maintains that she acted within her profession to save a life.
“Life of any human being is precious,” the soft-spoken Okudinia told Daily Monitor in an interview on Monday, adding that the patient was brought to the health centre in the morning and until lunchtime, an ambulance had not arrived. As a last resort, the officer-in-charge requested a boda boda at a nearby stage to transport the patient after waiting for an ambulance in vain, but the boda boda declined for fear of being arrested. One of the presidential directives on the spread of coronavirus bars boda bodas from transporting passengers.
Ms Okudinia explains: “This patient came to the [health] centre at around 7am. As I reached the facility, I found him lying on the verandah and we had to wait for the clinical officer to arrive at 8am. He took the prescriptions and recommended for laboratory tests.”
The health centre gave first aid treatment and referred the patient to Arua Regional Referral Hospital.
Ms Okudinia said they waited for an ambulance from 9am but until 1pm, it had not arrived. This was when the wife of the patient approached the nurses, crying in desperation because her husband’s condition was deteriorating.
“It was not my decision to use the wheel chair [after the wife of the patient pleaded for it]. She cried to us that ‘if you people have a wheel chair, let us use this to carry him.’ I then helped her, thinking that if the ambulance got us on the way, they would take up from there,” she said.
During the journey, the patient asked to rest at River Enyau, where they rested for about 30 minutes and then set off to the hilly part of the road leading to Arua Town. She managed to wheel the patient up to Arua Regional Referral Hospital.
The nurse, who said she would not be what she is today if she had not been helped by others, especially during her school days, does not regret her decision.
“… that patient was ill. Helping [him] was not a sin because even God knows that I only wanted to [save] the life of the patient,” she said.
Ms Okudinia said on the evening of Easter Sunday, the Arua deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Ms Alice Akello, paid her a visit at her home. However, this was not a normal visit. It was intimidation.
“When I was called by a fellow nurse that the deputy RDC had come to see me. I came out of the house smiling to welcome her. But she told me she had not come to laugh. She said if I was joking, they could dismiss me from my work and close the health centre for tarnishing the name of the government and acting unprofessionally. I was left in disbelief,” she said.
The deputy RDC then drove off with her escorts. But on Monday, she and other security team members, summoned Ms Okudinia, her father and Mr Alfred Nyakuni, a presenter on Radio Pacis, to explain why they ‘tarnished’ the name of government.
Mr Nyakuni said: “The Deputy RDC called me on phone that I should appear before the Covid-19 district taskforce on Easter Monday with the officer-in-charge [of the health centre] and the nurse by 10am. I told her I would report the following day on Tuesday since Monday was a public holiday. However, I have not reported since the summon was on phone. I told her to summon me in a formal manner.”
He added: “If the rest of the world is behind us, we shall walk with our heads high.”
When contacted for a comment on the matter, the deputy RDC, Ms Alice Akello, said:
“I am not responding to anything in the press. I am not before court and the truth will come out and everybody will know what happened.”
WHAT THEY SAY
Government is aware that some health centres and districts do not have ambulances The nurse acted on a humanitarian ground. I pity the leaders who are accusing her of being unprofessional yet she wanted to save a life,” David Asea, eyewitness
I don’t know why people sometimes don’t own up in situations where they have made mistakes. This lady [nurse] deserves appreciation and support as a role model rather than being witch-hunted,” Bernard Atiku, Ayivu County MP
A true hero, she is. True definition of service before self. I celebrate Doris and all our health workers who sacrifice their lives to save thousands of lives daily. I appeal to the public to remember them in prayer,”Dr Ruth Aceng, Health minister
Who is Doris Okudinia?
Background. Born on October 13, 1990, and raised in Ewacaku Village, Ezuku Parish, Vurra Sub-county in Arua District, Ms Okudinia almost lost her dream of becoming a nurse due to lack of school fees. Despite numerous challenges, including walking long distances to school, she said her father inspired her to proceed with her studies up to A-Level, where she offered Mathematics, Economics and Geography. She said her father sold avocados, Irish potatoes and passion fruits to raise money to pay her school fees and that of her siblings.
She almost dropped out of school in Senior Six but a family friend helped pay part of her school fees. She joined nursing school in 2011.