- When someone is not feeling well, the first place they run to is the hospital. However, instead of getting treatment, some women are raped, adding salt to injury. One such person was Amongi, who was raped by a radiographer at Lira Hospital.
By Carol Natukunda
A senior radiographer at Lira Hospital is on the run after he was accused of raping a 20-year-old patient. Francis Elema, 44, said to be hiding in Sudan, is alleged to have forced one Amongi (first name withheld) into having sex with him in the hospital’s X-ray unit. The incident happened on March 3, 2011 at around 5:00pm.
Elema has since been deregistered and scrapped off the Government payroll after the Allied Health Professionals’ Council declared him guilty of the offence and fi red him on September 26, 2013.
Documents obtained by Sunday Vision show that the victim reported the incident to the hospital administration and both parties were called for a meeting. The complainant also underwent gynaecological and physical examination, which corroborated Elema’s confession.
Amongi alleged that on the fateful day, she was examined by Elema and that she was the fi rst patient in the morning.
Illustrations by Danny Barongo
However, due to unclear circumstances, she had to wait until after 5:00pm to receive her radiograph. In the statement she made to the hospital on March 4, 2011, Amongi claims she went for treatment at 10:00am in the hospital’s outpatient department, where she was given an X-ray request form.
She then went to the X-ray department where her request form was collected. She was the first patient to be called in.
It is alleged that Elema asked her to remove her blouse and then started touching her in an improper manner. She reacted angrily, after which Elema allegedly stopped immediately before resuming the chest X-ray.
Although she needed both chest and abdomen Xray, she was told that the abdominal X-ray would be done later in the day. She waited for the results of her chest scan and the impending abdominal scan.
There was a power cut that day and Elema rode away on a motorcycle at about 3:00pm. Meanwhile Amongi, like some other patients, waited in vain for the radiographer to return.
When she figured that it was getting late, Amongi decided to leave. She had reached at the hospital gate when Elema returned. He told her to wait for him as he picked the keys to the X-ray room.
“He called her to the ultrasound room and started convincing her with words of love. He tried to undress her, but when she resisted, he tied her hands with a wire. She told him that she did not want the act and feared she would get infected with HIV/AIDS. He told her that if she feared, he would use a condom, which he put on, pulled her skirt and knickers down to her knees and raped her while she was standing,” reads a report written by a senior medical officer, Josephine Apinyo, based on Amongi’s narration.
Fifteen minutes later, Elema allegedly removed the condom and pushed it into a bucket containing toilet paper. He then wrote Amongi a medical form and told her to bring it the following day to the clinical officer.
Elema gave two contradictory statements. Initially, his defence was that he perceived it as a sexual act between two consenting adults. He stated that it happened after he negotiated with her, adding that he used a condom. “I assumed that she had accepted,” Elema said in a handwritten statement dated March 4, 2011.
Then he apologised: “I admit the evil act that I have committed against this girl without her consent...I beg for forgiveness.” However, in another statement to the hospital director dated June 9, 2011, Elema denied any wrongdoing and argued that there was no reason why a disciplinary action should be taken against him.
He confirmed leaving the hospital at about 3:00pm, before giving Amongi her results, but argued that it is because she was not available at that time.
However Amongi insists Elema left her at the hospital. Elema further alleged that when he returned, she asked Amongi to go home and return the following day for the results since the doors had been locked, but she refused, saying her aunt might send her away from home if she returned without the results.
He confirmed going for the key to the X-ray room and giving Amongi her results, but denied raping her. He also alleged that Amongi had wanted him to write for her a prescription, but he declined. At about 11:00am the following day, Elema was invited to the principal hospital administrator to defend himself.
The Hospital's stand
After several disciplinary meetings, Dr. William Ocen, the acting director of Lira Hospital, referred the matter to the director general of health services for disciplinary action.
Ocen stated that proceedings were instituted by the hospital management disciplinary committee and found Elema guilty of having engaged in sex in the workplace.
He observed that Elema’s acts had brought the image of the hospital into disrepute as the public “fear sending their wives or daughters to the hospital facility for fear of being raped by the health workers.” The hospital recommended that Elema be suspended from medical practice with immediate effect and be deleted from the hospital payroll.
“The general hospital community is uncomfortable about you involving in sexual activity in the hospital and is not happy with you for turning the Ultra solography room into a lodge for sexual activity with patients,” reads one of the recommendations.
The Allied Health Professionals Council (AHPC) was in the meantime tasked to deregister him, which they did in September 2013.
What the Council says
Allied Health Professionals Council legal officer, Annet Nabbanja, says Elema was summoned several times to appear before the council and defend himself, but he declined.
“He did not come and we hear that he is in Sudan. We are trying to work with the professional body there to have him arrested. This took us about eight months of investigations and we had to act. He was dismissed, and his licence was revoked,” Nabbanja said, adding that this is tantamount to professional misconduct.
Nabbanja warns health professionals to adhere to the professional code of conduct. “We are supposed to ease pain for the patients, not to worsen it.”
Was the Police involved?
Amongi had undergone medical examination within 24 hours of the rape. Consequently, the Police arrested Elema. However, the courts of law later dismissed the case for lack of concrete evidence
Why would a medic rape his patient?
Rape is a devastating crime. Some women are badly injured. Some become pregnant, while others contract HIV. But the emotional trauma can be worse when a patient is abused by the people they trust. Psychologists say this has to do with the same reasons as any other rapist.
“Rapists are often very impulsive. For example, they might see a woman who is alone, and seize the opportunity,” says Laura Aryaijuka, a sociologist and part time lecturer of psychology at Kyambogo University.
A senior doctor at Mulago Hospital, however, feels that paramedicals and lab attendants are not receiving enough training on how to handle patients without looking at them in a sexual manner.
“For us doctors, you are trained to mentally know how to draw a line between your feelings and your patient. “Your heart is on saving the patient’s life because that is your calling. Besides it is part of the basic training in professional conduct. Otherwise, we would be having women shunning male gynaecologists. But it is not the case. In fact, we are seeing many women who prefer male doctors,” he says.
How to prevent a potential rape
Every female is a potential victim of rape. Usually the attacker is physically stronger than the victim. Prevention tips in a hospital.
• Do not trust a male lab attendant, radiographer or dispenser, especially during odd hours. If you must see them at such hours, you can request to have a trusted relative to come into the examination room along with you or sit just outside the room where they can help you out in case you are in danger.
• If the facility is not government owned, do not simply accept free medical privileges such as dugs, examinations and check-ups. Ensure you know as much as possible about the facility you are going for to avoid threats.
• If attacked, scream loudly to attract help.
• Evaluate the situation and see if you have chances of successfully fighting back or escaping.
• If you can fight back, hit the rapist hard enough to create and escape route to enable you flee ( jab his eyes directly or hit his groin with your knee).