NTUNGAMO. Seven health units established in Ntungamo District between 2002 and 2008 have never been used for delivery of the needed services.
They are Kirungu, Katojo, Rwamwire, Kiziba, Ngoma, Ruhanga and Kijubwe health centre IIs. Each was constructed at a cost of Shs380 million under the Local Government Development Programme (LGDP). Each health centre has four rooms, a staff house accommodating two people, and two toilets. However, three are currently rented out while four are unoccupied.
The chairperson of the district health and education committee, Mr Benard Ahabwe Mukasa, says as a result, residents in the affected areas trek more than eight kilometres to visit the nearby health centres.
Mr Ahabwe adds that this is also forcing many to run to unlicensed drug shops that sometimes sell expired medicine.
He argues that operationalisation of the idle health units would help in bringing services closer to the people.
“Our people need services, it does not help to tell them that the ministry does not want to accredit a health unit. They see the building and every time you go to them, they ask you about the use for the building. Some of the buildings that were constructed more than 15 years ago have worn out. This is tax payers’ money being wasted,” says Mr Ahabwe.
Mr Gelevasio Mubangizi, a resident of Kirungu Village in Rwoho Town Council, says they walk more than 10 miles to reach a health centre.
“You have to go to Kabuyanda, about 14kms, or Kitwe, about 16kms away, for treatment. For us we are not considered, a health worker comes to this area only for immunisation. May be the only people government cares about are children,” says Mr Mubangizi.
The district has 43 health units, which include a district hospital, three health centre IVs, 12 health centre IIIs and 24 health centre IIs.
Out of 97 parishes in the district, only 24 have health centre IIs while only 12 of the 34 sub-counties and town councils have health centre IIIs.
The district health officer, Dr Richard Bakamuturaki, admits that there is a big health service gap.
“We have in the past years been graded by the Ministry of Health in all aspects as one of the worst in health service delivery. We do admit but the biggest challenge has been the (small) number of health units in the district and the distance between these health facilities,” says Dr Bakamuturaki.
He adds that cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis have persisted in most areas because patients cannot be easily followed up by health workers due to long distances.
“Other districts that do not have many government health units have private not for profit units that offer almost the same services but for us we do not have. We are having cases of multi drug resistant TB and people are failing to go health units for HIV testing, others fail to go to get their ARVs,” he says.
Part of the solution, the health official says, can be activating the idle health units and uplifting of some health centre IIs to health centre III status.
Less than 50 per cent of the persons living with HIV in the district are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART). Contraceptive use is at 28 per cent while only 35 per cent of the mothers give birth from health facilities, according to Dr Bakamuturaki.
“With HIV/Aids, for example, we have a backlog of people who have been on ARVs and are not getting drugs but the policy says we start the new case on drugs, where do we get the drugs? They tell us to enroll new health units, indeed we accredit them but the enrolled do not get drugs immediately yet for us we tell people on radios that these services are available and people abuse us,” he says.
The district chairperson, Mr Denis Singahache, says with the government moving to phase out health centre IIs, residents will now face the very serious challenges in accessing health services.
According to the Ministry of Health structure, each district should have a district general hospital, each county a health centre IV, each sub-county a health centre III and each parish a health centre II. Out of 97 parishes in the district, only 24 have health centre IIs while only 12 of the 34 sub-counties and town councils have health centre IIIs.