Leaders in Namayingo District are breathing a sigh of relief following the purchase of boat ambulances as one of the interventions to strengthen emergency care service delivery on the islands.
The procurement of the boats comes after alleged intense lobbying from the former Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who tasked the government to ensure that all health centre IVs around the country get ambulances as proposed in the 2019/2020 Budget.
“On behalf of the 10th Parliament, which lobbied hard and budgeted for the boat ambulances, am (sic) very happy for the island communities. The boat ambulances were finally purchased and will improve accessibility of services on the mainland,” Ms Kadaga posted on her social media pages on Tuesday.
Mr Mathias Mangeni, the assistant district health officer in-charge of disease prevention and health promotion, on Wednesday said they had lost hope after talk about procuring the boat ambulances went silent.
“However, the Parliamentary committee on Covid-19 visited the district about two weeks ago and said there was a procurement of ambulances,” Mr Mangeni said.
Mr Mangeni said the boat ambulances will ease referrals especially for mothers who face difficulties during delivery.
“We have to move them [mothers] to areas with a theatre which is a very big challenge. If a mother or someone who needs blood transfusion has been referred from Lolwe to the mainland, they need a minimum of Shs500,000,” he said.
Mr Mangeni said although MV Sigulu started operations in November 2019 with an aim of offering cheaper transport between Sigulu and Lolwe islands, and connecting them to Lugala mainland in Namayingo, the vessel cannot handle emergencies.
“It [MV Sigulu] is only for connectivity and operates on a schedule; but these are emergencies at night, while the vessel is not working,” he said.
However, Mr Mageni said one boat ambulance is not enough for Namayingo’s 13 habitable islands.
“Lolwe Sub-county alone has four government health facilities while Sigulu has three. So, if there is a patient in, say, Hama or Sio and you want to move that patient, the cheapest means is to first go to Kenya and Busia general hospital, Kenya or Sio Hospital in Kenya,” he said.
About 75 per cent of Namayingo is an island consisting of three sub-counties of Sigulu, Bukana, and Lolwe.
Mr Mangeni appealed to government to increase the budget for health centres in islands because they are hard-to-reach.
He added that residents in the various areas also find it costly to access health services.
Earlier, Mr James Ouma Wandera, the former district secretary for health and education, said mothers move a distance of 20km to give birth and immunise their children in Kenya.
Mr Wandera said those without Kenyan national identity cards pay KShs500 (about Shs15,000) for immunization which is free in Uganda.