Health activists demand return of free meals at Masaka hospital

Patients and caregivers receive food at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital on July 12, 2017. Photo | File

What you need to know:

  • Previously, the hospital provided three meals a day, including porridge with milk for breakfast and posho and beans for lunch and supper. Wednesdays offered a special pilao dish.

Health activists with the Southern Region Social Rights Association (SRSRA) are calling on Masaka Regional Referral Hospital to reinstate free meals for all inpatients.

The demand comes after the hospital suspended free meals for most patients in 2023, citing budgetary constraints. SRSRA chairperson Swaibu Sulambaaya acknowledges the hospital's efforts to feed critical patients but argues the program excludes many in need.

Mr Swaibu Makumbi Sulambaaya, the chairperson Southern Region Social Rights Association (SRSRA) during an interview at the Monitor Publications Limited office in Masaka. 

"While we appreciate them feeding some patients, those wards receive less than 40 meals. We urge them to consider patients without caregivers who can't afford meals," Mr Sulambaaya said on Sunday.

Ms Mercy Namwanje, another activist, expressed concern about patients recovering on empty stomachs. She cited a recent death, speculating that hunger may have been a contributing factor.

"We are not asking for much, just simple meals like beans and posho," Namwanje stated.

Previously, the hospital provided three meals a day, including porridge with milk for breakfast and posho and beans for lunch and supper. Wednesdays offered a special pilao dish (spiced rice and beef).

In an interview last week, the hospital administrator, Mr Charles Tumushiime maintained that the current budget can only support meals for 20 percent of inpatients.

“Our budget on feeding can’t cater for over 330 inpatients and their caretakers, we can only afford to provide free meals to only 66 inpatients,” he said.

Mr Tumushime explained that they need about Shs250 million every financial year to sustain the feeding programme, but currently receive only Shs80 million which is not enough.

In 2009, the then hospital management claimed that the Shs44 million they were receiving at the time to buy food and also purchase drugs, was channeled by the government to National Medical Stores, leaving nothing for the free meals. But free meals were later reinstated in 2014 before being suspended last year.

On average, the hospital  gets at least 1,800 out patients and about 360 admissions daily, of which a minimum of 40 are new deliveries. However, it receives less funds compared to its needs.