Mbale hospital CT scan machine remains idle 

The main gate to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • We visited private facilities in Mbale City and found out that they charge between Shs30,000 and Shs50,000 for such services, the amount which is, at times, not affordable to ordinary Ugandans.

Mbale Regional Referral Hospital is stuck with a Computed Tomography (CT) scan machine due to lack of films as patients continue to receive services from private health facilities at exorbitant fees.

The hospital received and installed a new CT scan machine in December last year so as to start offering services at an affordable cost to patients but this is currently not the case because the National Medical stores (NMS) is yet to supply films to make the machine functional.

We visited private facilities in Mbale City and found out that they charge between Shs30,000 and Shs50,000 for such services, the amount which is, at times, not affordable to ordinary Ugandans.

Mr Patrick Okomera, the hospital principal administrator, said:  “Initially, the hospital did not have a CT scan. We were relying on the scan from Mt Elgon Hospital and Cure Children Hospital until we had to remodel the building to cater for the CT scan that was installed last December,” he said.

He added that after installation, they received a few films as a sample for testing but since then, they have not received films from NMS.

“All funds for drugs and assortments are transferred from the Ministry of Finance to NMS. So its NMS to available us with films but it has not yet supplied us. Therefore, the machine is available but we don’t have film,” he said.

Mr Okomera said the hospital can only procure films if it is allowed to levy a fee from the patients to buy films for the CT scan.

“If they give us clearance that we can charge user fee, we can be able to generate through the system and be able to procure the films whenever they are needed such that the services can continue,” he said, adding that the hospital will also incur more costs on power to run the scan since it consumes a lot of it.

According to Mr Okomera, the hospital has three other ultrasound scans, which are operational, although they are overwhelmed by patients.

“Ultrasound scan services are available, one is in the maternity ward, specifically for mothers and another is in the high dependency unit. The third one is in radiology department. We have more than 100 women seeking ultrasound service at the maternity wing on a daily basis yet we have only one scan installed,” he said.

Ms Betty Mugoya, a caretaker at the hospital, on Monday said they are stuck with their patient at the hospital due to lack of money to do a CT scan. 

“We have been asked to do CT scan from outside the hospital but we don’t have money,” she said.

The CT scan refers to a computerised x-ray imaging procedure in which a narrow beam of x-rays is aimed at a patient and quickly rotated around the body, producing signals that are processed by the machine to generate cross-sectional images called “slices”. 

These slices are called tomographic images and can give a clinician more detailed information than conventional x-rays. 

Once a number of successive slices are collected by the machine, they can be digitally “stacked” together to form a three-dimensional (3D) image of the patient that allows for easier identification of basic structures as well as possible tumors or abnormalities.

Ms Hadija Nimura, an expectant mother, said she has been seeking ultrasound service for three days but in vain.

“I was referred to do an obstetric ultrasound scan from the main hospital but it has taken me three days,” she said.

She urged government to introduce such services at health centre IV because the regional hospitals are overwhelmed.

Ms Sheila Nduhukire, the NMS spokesperson, said they are working towards procuring the films for the CT scan.

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