By Innocent Atuganyira
Patients at Masindi General Hospital have continued to accuse health workers of forcing them to pay bribes before they are attended to.
The vices of extortion and bribery are at their highest peak at the only government referral hospital which serves the communities of Masindi, Kiryandongo, Buliisa, part of Hoima and Nakasongola.
Patients allege that they are asked to pay 150,000 shs to 200,000 especially at Caesarian section (theatre) department.
They also claim that a patient who cannot afford such an amount is referred to Hoima Regional Referral Hospital which is 2½ or 3hour drive from Masindi, and has to fuel the ambulance.
One of the care takers who talked to www.mknewslink.com on confidentiality said that she paid Shs20, 000 for medicine and Shs70, 000 for the medical worker before her pregnant daughter could be taken for C- section.
“However, he did not give me a receipt after paying the money,” the seemingly afraid old woman narrated.
Another aggrieved care taker revealed that her daughter was brought to the maternity ward in labor pains but the health workers refused to touch her until shs 250, 000 was paid.
Lucky Atom 20, a resident of Kinuma village Pakanyi subcounty in Masindi district explained that she was asked to pay Shs100, 000 to be operated but after a thorough bargain, they accepted Shs70, 000.
“I was told to pay more 40,000 for the medicine. I didn’t have money and it was late in the night but the nurse refused to give her medicine until the next morning when I paid the money,” Magaret Aneno Atom’s mother in law told our reporter.
“Bribery is everywhere in health Centres. I recently took my child to Bwijanga health Centre IV for operation, the medical worker asked for Shs200, 000 and when I told him I didn’t have money he said it was okay but refused to attend to my child, he instead asked for 300,000 and didn’t touch my child until I cleared the money,” a mother narrated.
However, Dr. Simon Baguma the Masindi General Hospital administrator has denied all the bribery allegations noting that it’s a government hospital which offers free services to the public.
“Why can’t they come out and report the issues to the hospital administration instead of running to the media. Such issues can be addressed by the hospital administrator, police or the office of the RDC, but not the media,” Dr. Buguma noted.
He also explained that a patient is referred to Hoima or Mulago national referral hospital when his or her case is too hard to be handled but not because he or she doesn’t have money.
Dr. Brian Mugisha the Assistant District Health Officer declined to be recorded, and said that Dr. Patrick Baguma the District Health Officer – Masindi is the one in position to address the media concerning such matters.
However, when pressed for about 20minutes, Dr. Mugisha revealed they get allegations from the community, but they have never netted any one a part from the nurse who was caught red handed extorting money from the patient in 2019.
He could not speak further but instead whispered to our reporter, “It’s a very sensitive matter which may kick me out of this office, but we are working hand in hand with the deputy RDC Dominic Tibasiima to net the health workers who are extorting money from patients.”
Delibert Tumusiime working with Recreation for Development and Peace – RDP as anti-corruption crusader under the component of ‘I paid a bribe’ explained that they have a number of cases of bribery taking place at Masindi general hospital mostly at the theatre.
“The victims raise their complaints during radio talk shows, but they fear to come out of their comfort zones to report directly because they are not sure how safe they are after reporting, he added.
When our reporter approached the Resident District Commissioner – RDC Masindi Ms. Rose Kirabira, she revealed that she got allegations of money extortion at Masindi General Hospital mostly at the theatre.
Ms. Kirabira who recently had engagement meeting with the health workers at Masindi general hospital, said that health workers revealed that they get little allowances, and according to Ms. Kirabira, this might be the main cause of bribery at the facility.
“We don’t know who is practicing the vice, but we have put in our intelligence until we catch one red handed then the rest will learn from that one.” She noted.
On 12th August 2019, police in Masindi arrested a nurse at Masindi General Hospital for soliciting money from a patient. Christine Akugizibwe a nurse at Masindi hospital children’s ward was arrested for allegedly asking money from a patient worth Shs22, 000 before being worked on.
Trouble for Akugizibwe started when she allegedly demanded for money from Phiona Kimuli a resident of Nyangahya cell Masindi Municipality who was attending to her 6year old boy.
www.mknewslink.com a greater western Uganda news website