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35 children die in a month as Mbale Hospital grapples with blood shortage

Mbale, (UG):- Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, the biggest health facility in the Eastern Region is in acute shortage of blood for patients with reports indicating an infant mortality rate of 35 children in the last one month.

The development came about during a recent visit to the facility by a team of coordinators from the Office of the National Chairman in the Bugisu Subregion to respond to escalating concerns raised by the community over the operational challenges plaguing the regional referral hospital.

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Led by the Bugisu Region Coordinator, Mr Christopher Buyela, Ms Jalia Namasaba, Wandulu Zaidi and Shaban Kachimete (all coordinators) the ONC team on Thursday, June 7, started their three-day fact-finding mission at the hospital where they unearthed a distressing picture of systemic failures hindering both access to healthcare and the hospital’s ability to deliver essential services effectively.

From their findings, the team discovered that the Mbale City Authorities have stayed defiant of the presidential Directive which ordered to move away Pharmacies and Private Health Facilities from Hospitals.

However, the biggest issue according to Ms Zemei Sylvia the in-charge of the facility’s ACUTE department is the insufficient blood supply. Ms Zemei told the team that they lose over 35 children every month due to lack of blood.

“Last Thursday four children were reported by the facility authorities to have died due to insufficient blood,” she says, adding that the blood shortage at the facility has now left the lives of patients including adults at stake raising a rallying call for blood transfusion in the region to mitigate the crisis.

More rot at the facility

The team also discovered that In Mbale, the Hospital is surrounded by over 10 pharmacies and Private Facilities which are said to be owned by Doctors working in the Region Referral Hospital

“Some of the medical workers are accused of referring patients intentionally and they get a commission at the end of the day for each patient,” Buyela, the lead coordinator told the media on Thursday.

The team also established that the main entrance of the hospital is overcrowded with special hires and Boda Bodas and they recommended that Mbale City Council Authorities act upon it with immediate effect.

Other issues of concern raised by the hospital staff and community included the following;

  1. Boda Boda Congestion: The hospital’s gates are besieged by crowds of motorcycle taxis, making access difficult for patients, visitors, and ambulances alike.
  2. Special Hire Stage Obstruction: Another gate, adjacent to the Masaba Wing, serves as a special hire stage, exacerbating congestion and impeding hospital operations.
  3. Gate Blockages: Critical entrances to the hospital, including Kumi Road, are obstructed by motorcycles, while the hospital’s immediate vicinity is inundated with pharmacies, clinics, and laboratories, further complicating access.
  4. Presence of Unauthorized Personnel: Numerous individuals, purportedly affiliated with external health centres, loiter within the hospital premises, hindering the delivery of care.
  5. Inadequate Security: With only four ageing policemen tasked with securing a facility serving over 5000 individuals, concerns regarding safety and security within the hospital compound are paramount.
  6. Road Disrepair: Potholes mar the main entrance road, rendering it impassable and contributing to delays in critical care provision, potentially resulting in preventable deaths.
  7. External Interference: A charcoal store situated adjacent to the hospital disrupts operations, while reports indicate that several illegal entry points compromise security measures.
  8. Medicine Shortages: The National Medical Stores’ inadequate supply of essential medications, exemplified by the absence of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for malaria treatment, directly contributes to patient morbidity and mortality.

The gravity of these challenges is compounded by the revelation that the Mbale City Clerk holds a seat on the hospital’s management board, raising questions about conflicting interests and potential conflicts of interest.

Despite previous attempts to address these issues with local authorities, including the Mbale RCC’s office, prioritization of revenue generation over service delivery remains a persistent obstacle.

As the primary healthcare provider for Eastern and Northern Uganda, Mbale Regional Referral Hospital’s ability to fulfil its mandate is undeniably compromised by these multifaceted challenges. Urgent intervention from government agencies is imperative to rectify these systemic shortcomings and ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all.

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