What you need to know:
- It’s alleged that health workers connive with some laboratory officials to sell blood.
A section of health workers at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital in Mbale City are selling a unit of blood to patients for between Shs20,000 and Shs40,000, a Daily Monitor investigation has revealed.
The investigation was initiated following rampant complaints from patients, accusing health workers of extorting money in exchange for blood.
Dr Emmanuel Tugainayo, the director of Mbale Hospital, was captured on camera on Wednesday last week, quizzing an intern doctor over allegations of selling blood to patients.
The accused doctor, who is attached to the Acute Children’s Emergency Ward, was allegedly found with the money she had received from one of the caretakers.
In different interviews, the caretakers revealed that medical workers have been extorting money from them through middle men (mostly casual workers in the hospital) before they are given blood.
A patient’s attendant at the Acute Children Emergency Ward, who preferred anonymity to speak freely, said after paying the money, they are directed to pick the blood from the hospital storage facilities.
“At the storage facilities, you will find a health worker who hands it [blood] over to you,” the source said.
A nurse at the maternity ward, who requested not to be named, said some health workers connive with some laboratory officials to sell blood.
“It’s a connivance and we are also concerned because patients that come here are from poor backgrounds,” the nurse said.
It was not readily established who among the laboratory officials was or were involved in the scam.
Ms Teopista Akumu, a resident of Lyama Sub-county in Budaka District and a mother of a two-year-old baby, admitted to the Acute Children’s Emergency Ward, said she was asked by health workers to pay Shs20,000 for one unit of blood for her daughter.
“When I reached the hospital, the doctor asked me to give her money and get blood,” Ms Akumu said, adding: “Unfortunately, they took a long time to give me the blood until I was forced to report them to the hospital director.”
Daily Monitor, however, learnt that the reason Ms Akumu delayed getting the blood was due to the current shortage that had hit the hospital.
Mr Jackson Okello, a resident of Namatala Ward in Mbale City, claimed his wife nearly died recently at the health facility due to lack of blood.
“I took my wife to Mbale Hospital and she was admitted. The doctors needed blood, but unfortunately the hospital did not have it,”Mr Okello said.
Mr Ahmed Bumba, the regional manager of Mbale region blood bank, said despite the challenges in blood collections due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they have managed to avail blood in hospitals.
“Our target is to collect 3,500 units of blood per month, but for the last four months, we have collected between 3,900 and 4,200 units,” he said, adding that the demand for blood in the region is about 5,000 units per month.
Mbale regional blood bank covers the sub-regions of Teso, Sebei, Bugisu, Karamoja, and Bukedi.
Mr Bumba said since the outbreak of Covid-19, they have been moving from one village to another to collect blood.
He added that there is a sharp increase of blood consumption in the hospitals due to rampant cases of malaria.
“Hospitals are registering huge cases of Malaria, especially in the districts of Butaleja, Budaka and Kibuku,” Mr Bumba said.
He said they provided Mbale Hospital with 1,000 units of bloods, but it’s never enough due to the overwhelming number of patients.
Mbale Hospital director, Dr Emmanuel Tugaineyo, said he was going to take action against those involved in the blood scam.
“I send a strong warning to other health workers who could be involved in this habit [selling blood],” he said.
Dr Tugaineyo said although they have blood in the hospital, they have a challenge of Blood group O, which gets over faster than other blood groups.
“Blood group of O is a universal donor and it can be given to everybody even if your blood group is not there,” he said.
Dr Tugaineyo said they often send ambulances to Nakasero Blood Bank to collect blood when the regional blood bank has shortages.
“The blood we get from the regional bank doesn’t meet the demand. It may not help so much with the emergencies,” he said.
The Mbale City Resident City Commissioner (RCC), Mr Ahamada Washaki, said there is need for collective efforts to fight such evil acts in the hospital.
“I have directed the hospital director two days to investigate the allegations against the health workers, especially the suspect who was caught red handed with money,” Mr Washaki said.
Earlier, medical workers at the same hospital had been accused of demanding money from patients before they attended to them.
Mbale Hospital, which was opened in 1924, has a capacity of about 400 beds. The facility serves the districts of Busia, Tororo, Butaleja, Pallisa, Butebo, Bududa, Manafwa, Namisindwa, Mbale, Sironko, Bulambuli, Kapchorwa, Bukwo, and Kween.