• Aug 04, 2021 . 3 min Read
  • Report pins eight Arua hospital staff over missing ambulance

The ambulance that went missing from Arua Hospital
Robert Adiga
Journalist @New Vision

An independent company hired by the management of Arua Regional Referral Hospital to investigate the disappearance of the hospital ambulance has pinned eight staff members.

The ambulance went missing from the hospital parking yard on March 27, this year.

The yet to be named company carried out investigations for two-and-a-half months at the hospital to ascertain how the ambulance, donated by the health ministry for rapid response on COVID-19, disappeared amidst tight security.

The COVID-19 parliamentary committee for Northern Uganda, during their recent tour of the region last week, demanded the immediate release of the investigation report. This was at Arua district headquarters.

Those implicated include four security personnel working at the hospital, two drivers, the hospital director and administrator.

Labwor County MP Norman Ochero Jimbricky expressed disappointment over the disappearance of the ambulance.

“Since I was born, I have never heard of an ambulance being stolen. We want a detailed report from the investigations conducted by the hospital administration and Police,” Ochero said.

Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the chairperson public accounts committee, said the investigation was taking unnecessarily long.

In his response, Dr Filbert Nyeko, the hospital director, said the report was out, but he could only avail it to the hospital board that hired the private investigators.

The acting district police commander Arua City, Daniel Obore, said the report was out, but declined to reveal its findings in the presence of the media.

“If members would allow, we would give you the report without the media,” Obore explained.

However, the chairperson hospital management board, Dr Sam Okuonzi, confirmed receiving the investigation report and further revealed that it pins eight persons — four security personnel, two drivers, the hospital director and administrator.

“We communicated to the ministry. It is true, we engaged a private firm. According to the report, the four security guards made false statements despite having been on duty in the week the ambulance went missing, together with the two drivers. We will also take action against the director and the administrator over negligence and incompetence,” Okuonzi said.

Not surprised

Dr. Warren Namara of the State House Health Monitoring Unit told New Vision in an interview that he was not surprised by the findings.

He revealed that they had information that the ambulance was driven to Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I am not surprised. We sent there some people but I had not yet followed up with them, but I know the story. I would not be surprised if there was connivance of medical staff and that is one of our problems in the health sector. You have medical staff who know it is criminal to steal Government items but even if you get them, it is difficult to pin them down. They get lawyers and after all they have made money and then the next day you meet them on the streets,” Namara noted.

Briefs of the findings

The report summarised that the Toyota Land cruiser ambulance, number UG 6812M, valued at sh300m, went missing from the hospital parking yard on the night of March 27, this year without the knowledge of the hospital administration.

The report reveals that there was incompetence on the part of the security team at the hospital, the hospital director and administrator on managing security and a fleet of vehicles.

The report says there was connivance among the security personnel and the two drivers, who were well-connected on phone with the dealers outside, whose contacts are yet to be analysed.

According to the report, the hospital director and the administrator were allegedly absent for the four days in the week the ambulance went missing. When contacted, Dr Philbert Nyeko, the hospital director, who is currently on leave, said details of the report could not be discussed in the media.

Brief background

On March 29, this year, the police at Arua Central Police Station reported that they had arrested four staff of Arua Regional Referral Hospital — three security officers and the driver of the ambulance to aid with their investigations.

A case of theft of an ambulance was registered at the police station under CRB 30/5/2021. The suspects were later released on bond, but to date, no report has been released by Police.

Currently, whereabouts of the ambulance are not known. However, there were reports that it was found in DR Congo, but none of the leaders has come out to confirm the statement.

In February last year, an autoclave machine and assorted tool kit, worth about sh500m, went missing at Arua Regional Referral Hospital and was later intercepted from Nebbi district.

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