Patients abandoned as Jinja Hospital staff protest land giveaway

Jinja Regional Referral Hospital staff block the road to the facility while protesting their land row with the Muslim community on April 15, 2024. PHOTO/DENIS EDEMA

What you need to know:

  • Mr Yahudu Were, who had brought an expectant mother to the hospital, was received by the protesting health workers who matched her to the labour ward.

Patients at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital were Monday morning caught up in the crosshairs of a land row between the facility and Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC).
The dispute over Plot 31-39 Nile Avenue follows a protest by residents last month against the decision by Lands State Minister, Mr Sam Mayanja, to allocate it to Muslims.

The health workers attempted to march to the streets of Jinja City to express their disappointment over the land issue, but were blocked by police led by Jinja District Police Commander, Innocent Mubangizi, who said they deployed to ensure safety of hospital property and people’s lives.
Some units and wards were abandoned, leaving patients to fend for themselves, at least during that time, as the protesters drummed, sung the national anthem, and blocked vehicles from entering the hospital.

“We are only going to attend to expectant mothers coming to deliver and those brought for emergency attention,” one of the health workers said.
Mr Yahudu Were, who had brought an expectant mother to the hospital, was received by the protesting health workers who matched her to the labour ward.
Mr Charles Mwesigye, whose patient is on oxygen, had briefly driven out of the hospital to pick some items, but was blocked from re-entering the health facility upon return.
The Principal Hospital Administrator, Mr David Ssemakula, said the staff were “very angry” and demonstrated because the said land was meant for setting up a regional blood bank.

Police block staff of Jinja Regional Referral Hospital from marching to Jinja streets to protest over the contested land between the health facility and Muslim community on April 15, 2024. PHOTO/DENIS EDEMA

Mr Ssemakula, however, said there is an ongoing security meeting with some stakeholders to calm down the situation and ensure that the health workers return to their various units and attend to patients.
“Police want to contain the situation but unfortunately, one of the officers released teargas; however, there is a meeting going on to calm the staff down,” Mr Ssemakula added.

Mr Samuel Kasibante, one of the hospital staff, said he is “disappointed” by police’s decision to lobe teargas into hospital premises which have emergency wards and patients on oxygen.

“That is not a professional act in line of health,” he said.
By the time of filing this story, there was still considerable unrest at the hospital as the health workers demanded for the release of some of their colleagues who were arrested by police.

Last month, residents set the current protests in motion by blocking the hospital main gate and barring patients from entering or leaving the facility for some hours.
The chairperson Board of Governors Jinja Regional Referral Hospital, Dr David Charles Mukisa, said the land issue was resolved in 2009 by the High Court presided over by Justice Micheal Elubu, which ruled in the hospital’s favour.
However, minister Mayanja, during a visit to the contested site last month, “declared” that the land belongs to Muslims “because all Constitutions since 1900 clear state so”.
He further decreed that no Land Board has authority to give away land that belongs to an individual or authority like UMSC, and ordered the cancellation of all illegal titles on the Muslim land citing Section 91 of the Commission Land Registration Act.