Coffin sale at Mulago gate sparks debate

Coffins arranged near Mulago Regional Referral Hospital yesterday. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE 

What you need to know:

  • While some say the sale of coffins eases the burden on grieving families others say it causes negative psychological effects on patients.

A human resource manager has raised concerns about the sale of coffins near the entrance of Mulago National Referral Hospital, citing potential negative psychological effects on patients. 
 Mr Newton Amutuheire, a staff of Icon Medical Centre in Wakiso District, initially brought up the issue on X (formerly Twitter), sparking a polarising debate.

While some argued that having casket vendors nearby could ease the burden on grieving families who wouldn’t have to travel long distances when a loved one dies at the hospital,  others say the practice is insensitive.

Some people also pointed out that they prefer to hire funeral service companies that provide coffins and manage the entire burial process.
At Mulago National Referral Hospital, coffin dealers stage at the intersection of Binaisa and Kafeero Zone roads, adjacent to the New Mulago Gate Road leading to both the hospital and Kampala Capital City morgues.
 Patients, however, do not access the health facility through this gate.

 Mr Ali Male, a psychologist at A-Z Professional Counselling Support Centre in Kampala, said the sight of coffins traumatises patients and caregivers.
 “Hope is lost immediately … this directly affects healing and triggers the opposite [thought of dying],” he told this publication, adding, “So, my recommendation would be that [the dealer] should put those caskets somewhere where patients cannot easily see [them],” Mr Male said.

He added: “Just imagine somebody is struggling with an illness and is bedridden, but peeps through the window and is seeing coffins. So, definitely it triggers someone into what we call ‘anticipated grief’. They start anticipating that ‘maybe, I am the next [to die and be placed in the coffin’,” he said.

 Dr Herbert Luswata, the secretary general of Uganda Medical Association (UMA), said while the presence of coffins may not increase the risk of death, the psychological well-being of patients is crucial. 
He acknowledged that the display doesn’t create a positive atmosphere.

 “But the psychological health of our patients is very important … it (the display) does not look good,” he said.
However, the coffin sellers declined to comment on the matter, stating that they do not engage with journalists in their line of work.