By Moses Walubiri
Nurses on the lower rungs at Mulago National Referral Hospital have petitioned parliament to pull a plug on their imminent eviction from a hostel they claim is worse than a “pigsty” as the wrangle between the hospital administration and some of its ‘foot soldiers’ threatens to play out in the legislature.
The hostel at the heart of the impasse – Queen Elizabeth Tall Tower - is a derelict building erected at the cusp of independence as a transitional accommodation for newly recruited young nurses.
Three months ago, the hospital administration issued nurses a three months ultimatum to vacate the hostel, which to some, has been home for over 10 years.
Yesterday, teary nurses stormed parliament and handed the Health Committee chairperson, Dr. Kenneth Omona, a petition seeking parliament’s intervention into their plight.
“Many of the senior nurses and administrators that want us out of the hostels are themselves staying in hospital houses. Our one-roomed homes are not bigger than their plushy bathrooms. What have we done to deserve this?” Akiror Lydia, an enrolled nurse, said with a tinge of bitterness, before bursting into tears.
Akiror parted curtains on their standoff with the hospital administration, noting that although the latter has genuine concerns, they (nurses) have been pushed between a rock and a hard place.
“The administration claims that we have turned the hostel into our empire – starting families and housing our relatives. But the money we earn cannot afford us accommodation even in slums,” Akiror railed.
Jane Naafa and Florence Awati spewed vitriol on the “mistreatment of nurses” by the hospital’s top echelon, wondering how government expects nurses to give quality care when problems of deprivation and lack of accommodation are gnawing at their minds.
“I cannot allow my children to become nurses. Never! This is a thankless job,” Awati, clad in the snow-white uniform of Mulago nurses said.
According to Akiror, the complex that has capacity for 122 occupants is left with only 77 as other inhabitants have already left helter-skelter following threats on Sunday to disgracefully toss them out.
However, although Omona promised nurses “parliament’s speedy intervention,” Mulago Hospital Spokesperson, Enock Kusasira, downplayed the nurses concerns, accusing them of seeking “public sympathy.”
“Those hostels are for young nurses with no accommodation. The facility is a transitional accommodation for only two years as one establishes capacity to rent. It’s a matter of policy which they know,” Kusasira said, accusing some of the complainants of “renting out” their rooms.
Kusasira revealed that the hospital administration has been left with no option but to forcefully evict the nurses, if necessary, noting that some have declined accommodation offered elsewhere.
Mulago, Kusasira noted, has to find accommodation for 257 nurses that were recently recruited by the Health Service Commission.
With over 900 nurses on its payroll, Mulago perennially grapples with the problem of accommodation.
However, with the ongoing construction of 100 housing units for its staff, Kusasira hopes that many of the hospital staff – in line with government policy on health workers - will find accommodation near the hospital.