State House team cites graft in Manafwa maternal deaths

Health workers take oath for the second time at the council hall in Manafwa District last Thursday. PHOTO/Yahudu Kitunzi

What you need to know:

Four medics and a driver have been arrested in the last two months over corruption and absenteeism. 

The State House Health Monitoring Unit has blamed health workers for the increasing number of maternal deaths in Manafwa District.

According to its probe findings, the unit accused health workers of extorting money from pregnant mothers and also absconding from duty.

The investigation also found 18 ghost health centres in the district and evidence of increasing maternal deaths due to negligence by the health workers in various facilities.

Dr Julian Nabatanzi, the deputy director of the State House Health Monitoring Unit, on Sunday said the probe, which took six weeks, found that eight children died in Bugobero Health Centre IV due to negligence in July.

“Out of eight children who passed away, six were supposed to be saved by health workers but instead they were neglected. Some health workers are not human beings,” Dr Nabatanzi said.

She said findings also reveal that most of the health workers deployed at various health facilities have two jobs while others are on unsanctioned study leave.

“The health workers extort money from the patients while others are committing fraud in health facilities,” she said, adding that “some health workers have been elevated to senior positions, irregularly.”

Last Thursday, the unit arrested two doctors at Bubulo Health Centre IV,   for allegedly promoting themselves   to the senior medical officer rank and corruption.

  Dr Nabatanzi also accused health workers of stealing drugs while some report on duty when they are drunk.

“You can imagine a doctor who receives a salary of Shs5 million to leave a mother to die because of failure for her to raise Shs200,000,” she said.

Two weeks ago, police arrested and detained a midwife and nurse at Bugobero Health Centre IV as it commenced an investigation into the death of a pregnant mother and her baby at the facility.

Billa Nambisawa, the deceased, bled to death after failing to raise Shs200,000 the medical officers had reportedly asked for on the fateful day.

Mr Jimmy Nashimolo, a retired nurse, said the health workers are violating principles of the Hippocratic Oath by leaving the patients to die without bother.

“In the event of a medical emergency, under the Hippocratic Oath, a person is entitled to receive emergency medical care unconditionally without having to pay any deposits or fees prior to medical care but this is not being respected,” he said.

Ms Loyce Nakirya, a retired teacher, on Monday, said despite the Ministry of Health highlighting universal health coverage as a cornerstone in the sector’s development plan, disparities in access to quality health care in mainly remote communities remains a big challenge.

“This is leading to avoidable deaths, especially pregnant women and young children,” she said.

Ms Stella Khalayi, a mother and resident of Butiru Town Council, said late coming, absenteeism, rudeness, extortion among health workers is commonplace in many health centres.

Mr Peter Gudoi, a resident of Butiru Town Council, agreed with Ms Khalayi, by saying extortion is rife in the facilities.

“You only receive treatment and care if you have paid a bribe. The health workers last month attended to my pregnant wife after I parted with money,” he said.

Bribing health workers for services in government health facilities is common in Uganda.

 On average, households pay Shs106,000 in bribes to access health care, according to a 2021 study by the Inspectorate of Government.

The Manafwa District Health Officer (DHO), Dr Ephraim Nakhokho, said: “We discovered that some health workers have cliques and use tricks to get money from patients.”

The Chief Accounting Officer of Manafwa, Mr James Luyimbazi, has since directed the health workers to take oath for the second time in order to improve service delivery in the facilities.

 Official figures show that eight pregnant women die every day in Uganda.

National outlook

The 2022 Uganda Demographic and Healh Survey report shows that the number of mothers who died during pregnancy, delivery or 42 ays after delivery stood at 189 deaths per 100,000 live births, translating to 2,800 deaths in about 1.5 million live births.  This was decline from the 336 deaths recorded in 2016.

  However, the figure is higher than the United Kindgom’s where only 10 women die out of 100,000 live births.