WHEN 16-year-old Ruth Najjuma developed fever three weeks ago, her mother bought a dose of fansidar thinking she had developed malaria.
But her condition continued to deteriorate even after she completed the dose at her home in Sanje, Rakai district.
This is when Najjumaâ€™s parents decided to take her to Kalisizo Hospital where she was admitted. Before testing her blood, doctors gave her anti-malarials.
But after the tests, it emerged that the S.3 student of St. Maryâ€™s Sanje Secondary School in Rakai, had typhoid, forcing the medics to change the treatment. But her condition is only worsening.
Lying on her hospital bed with feeding tubes in her nose, an emaciated Najjuma stares blankly with intermittent seizures and breathing difficulties. Flies hover over her bed in a ward of about 20 patients.
Medics have referred Najjuma to Mulago Hospital, owing to the severity of her condition. She needs a CT (Computerised Tomography) scan because she could be having a brain tumour. But neither Kalisizo Hospital nor the entire Rakai district has an ambulance.
The nearest ambulance is at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, over 40km away. For over a decade, Rakai district has been asking for an ambulance in vain.
Confused, Najjumaâ€™s mother Agripino Kiwanuka begs the Kalisizo Hospital staff to avail her one of the pick-up trucks where she can lay a mattress and transport her ailing daughter. But the hospital does not have fuel.
Even when Kiwanuka pledges to provide the fuel, the truck is nowhere near the hospital Ââ€” it is out in the field. She opts to call a friend who volunteers an Ipsum saloon car.
Hospital in bad shape
Kyotera Member of Parliament who was visiting the hospital together with a team of Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) to assess the hospitalâ€™s situation contributed sh50,000 towards the patientâ€™s transport.
And this is not the first incident at Kalisizo Hospital. â€œI see such incidents every other day. I am used,â€ says Dr. George Wagumbulizi, the hospital in-charge.
Wagumbulizi speaks of the problems at the hospital in a grim tone as if to say he has lost hope. He has done everything within his means to get an ambulance in vain.
Besides, the dilapidated state of the hospital is heart rending, yet Kalisizo is not among those hard-to-reach areas in Uganda.
Kalisizo Hospital receives drugs and supplies worth sh226m annually. But this, according to Wagumbulizi, is a small amount compared to the population of about 150,000 people that the hospital serves.
This exposes the hospital to regular stock-outs of almost all drugs and supplies.
â€œWhenever we run out of drugs, we refer the patients to Masaka hospital,â€ Wagumbulizi, who has been at the hospital since 2001 explains.
He says their only option is to ask the patientsâ€™ relatives to improvise in case of an emergency. Rakai district has a population of 475,000 people, therefore the rest of the population is handled by Rakai Hospital and other health centres in the district.
The RHU spokesperson, Martha Songa, says the situation in Kalisizo Hospital is appalling and needs urgent handling.
She calls on the Government to respond to the health needs of Ugandans, especially in rural areas where health facilities are less equipped, if Uganda is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on health.
Rakai is the district where the first HIV case in Uganda was diagnosed in 1982, which attracted much government attention to the districtâ€™s health services.
But since the HIV prevalence reduced to a national average of 6.4%, the district seems to have been forgotten.
As a result, Kyotera MP Kyeyune Kasolo and his colleague Mathias Kasamba (Kakuuto) plan to rejuvenate the sensitisation about reproductive health in the district.
Kasolo says to kick-start their campaign, they will organise a fundraising ceremony for an ambulance, and invite the First Lady, also the Karamoja affairs minister, Janet Museveni as the chief guest.
As one ponders how to help out patients, the story of midwives causes more anguish. Medics buy their own uniforms and shoes unlike in the past when the Government provided them for free.
Besides, there is no electricity in the maternity wing of Kalisizo Hospital where between 70 and 120 babies are born every month, and the only generator is not connected to the ward.
Maria Jjuuko, the labour ward deputy in-charge, says they would have been able to save all the mothers that deliver at the facility every month but some die due to lack of facilities.
When they get premature births, Jjuuko says they use the kangaroo method, where mothers tie their premature babies against their chests for warmth.
Besides, the hospital does not have constant supply of blood. â€œWe require at least 40 units of blood every month, but we receive between 15 to 20 units per month from Masaka, which usually run out before the end of the month. This forces us to refer patients to Masaka yet we have no ambulance.â€
Kalisizo Hospital in sorry state