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Do not fall sick at night in Kapchorwa!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - 17:23

If you fall sick at night while in Kapchorwa District, you will not be in good hands. A week ago, a good friend of mine called in the middle of the night very critically ill and in need of assistance. I asked a brother to offer a lift to Kapchorwa Hospital which is the only open health facility in the district, also serving as the referral hospital in Sebei Region.

Upon arrival, we were met by total darkness, as there was a power outage in the district and worse still there was no Doctor in the outpatient department. As the norm is in Uganda, a friend who knows somebody connected us to a Clinical Officer who came in 30 minutes later. He offered diagnostic services and referred us to the wards for admission and treatment.

With no alternative source of light in the hospital, he diagnosed my friend using his phone flashlight and our flashlights. We strenuously waded through the dark walkway to the wards aided by flashlights.

Time check was 2.30 am – and my greatest surprise when we walked into the ward was that the nurse on duty did not have any form of torch or flashlight. TI wondered how she was going about with her work in the dark. But with our phone flashlights, we handed her the prescription form but she just gazed at us and said: “There is nothing in form of first aid, no drip water, and no pain killers available.”

On hearing that there was no medication in the general ward, we decided to move to the maternity ward with the hope of getting some kind of first aid but the nurse advised us to get it from a clinic outside the hospital. I wondered why a whole hospital with scores of patients was in total darkness and without medication.  

This only brought back bad memories from late 2014 when my brother lost a wife under very bizarre circumstances related to a power blackout in Kapchorwa District and poor referral services in the hospital. She was referred to Mbale Hospital without any support whatsoever from the health department. She died in Mbale Hospital after having been in labour for over 10 hours.

File 32633A doctor in Kapchorwa Hospital writes prescription using his phone flashlight
This happened at a time when government has stifled any attempt by the opposition leaning candidates to visit and assess the current state of health services, which in my view is very rotten. /. Most reports on the state of service delivery in Uganda have concluded that services are not only dilapidated but falling short of the policy standards and have recommended a raft of proposals to improve health service delivery. But these have not yielded results. This leaves us wondering about the governments priorities.

The state of health services in Uganda requires a total overhaul because citizens have been exposed to untold suffering as services of district and referral hospitals are found wanting. Next time you are in Kapchorwa just make sure that you do not fall sick because there are no doctors on the night shift , no first aid, and power black outs.

By Miriam Cherukut, Cluster Coordinator, ActionAid Uganda - Katakwi