Dr. Myers Lugemwa
Without delving into the antecedent causes to the death of Hajira Nakato in the recent maternal death at Jinja Hospital, and the allegation that the doctor at the centre of the subsequent pandemonium took sh700,000 from the relatives of the late Nakato, I wish to convey, on behalf of all Ugandans, my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved parents, in-laws and friends of the deceased.
This notwithstanding, however, I wish to bring to the attention of Ugandans that while health workers otherwise synonymously known as ‘human mechanics’ are trained to heal, they are never in control of preventing death from robbing us of our dear ones and, therefore, these mechanics may not entirely bear liability for the demise of Nakato and perhaps many others in this treatise.
But like all human beings, human error, in a deficient, malfunctioning health system trying to pull up, cannot be ruled out. Be it as it may, while the allegation that Dr. Charles Barungi solicited a bribe stands to be proved beyond reasonable doubt in the courts of law, incidents where people, usually of lower cadre in the profession and other masqueraders have been reported to ostensibly solicit monies from patients or their relatives claiming that it is the doctor who sent them to execute this unethical, criminal act.
Such incidents have been reported in big health facilities including the National Referral Hospital.
This notwithstanding, the cheated patient rarely reports this vice to the powers that be including the Police. Taking the law in their hands by physically antagonising health workers will not solve any problem but rather is apt to act as a recipe for disaster in our health facilities.
The last time primitive, barbaric, uncouth attacks, let alone the recent Mityana, Arua hospitals and Mukono Health Center 1V attacks, were during the days of Idd Amin Dada when soldiers would invade theatres and labour suites in hospital to force doctors operate proficiently on their patients. Other times where wananchi have rained attacks on healers have been onto witchdoctors where even shrines have been incinerated.
At this point in time, therefore, raining blows and running amok in sterile places like theatres and wards where the sick, some on oxygen, are hospitalised implies that society has run bonkers or have become ‘non-caput mentis’. This is further exemplified by labels that have demonised the oldest but noble profession by people whose motives, I think is to convince the gullible that health workers in Uganda are demons.
I must reiterate that a big number of health workers love their work and their hearts bleed when death deprives them of their patients after investing all their expertise in trying to save the patient’s life with the available commodities in their work place from the time they start interfacing with the patient.
But let’s also not forget that some Ugandans no longer brush their teeth or extract tunga petrans (jiggers) just because they are awaiting the Government to provide through the overburdened health work force.
But as the old adage goes, health is made at home and only repaired in health facilities. People must listen to medical advice; let them attend antenatal clinics when pregnant, keep their places clean, put on car safety belts, wear helmets while riding boda boda, dispose off their excreta in pit latrines to avoid cholera and wash their hands with soap or jik to avoid Ebola etc, etc.
For if the trend of attacking health workers when the attackers are the ones in quest of the heath workers’ services continues, a recipe for disaster is in the offing. And as Shylock puts in the Merchant of Venice ‘’…..if you prick us, don’t we bleed? If you tickle us, don’t we laugh?’’
If you chase a lizard for some distance and it reaches the end of the wall, it may change course and chase you.
I therefore, wish to opine that let any patient and or their caretaker who suspects any misdemeanour by any health worker report the matter to the head of the institution or Police.
Using other forces and people to resolve misconceptions and other issues in the health sector will not solve problems but rather will aggravate them to the detriment of the poor patient.
I also wish to implore my colleagues in the medical profession to exhibit the greatest restraint against any actions, in spite of the difficult working environment, that will dent the nobility of the human mechanic.