and John Odyek
HEALTH minister Dr. Stephen Mallinga yesterday shocked MPs when he said the seven deaths that occurred in Lira Hospital during the medical staff strike last week were expected.
Briefing Parliament on the situation, Mallinga said the deaths were not very alarming since five to six people on average die in the hospital per week.
â€œDetailed reports from Lira indicate that the deaths are what we medically call unavoidable. This means that these were patients going to die anytime.â€
This prompted angry reactions from the MPs, who wondered where the health ministerâ€™s sensitivity to life lay.
â€œOne of the purposes patients are taken to hospitals is not only for healing purposes, but to also make sure that they die humanely. Why did they die without care? If this happens in Lira, it can happen in other hospitals,â€ charged opposition chief whip Kassiano Wadri.
He accused the minister of promising to carry out an inquiry yet he had already cited the cause of the strike as non-payment of the staff risk allowances.
â€œI know that all these allowances are consolidated and paid along salaries,â€ Wadri said.
Lira Municipality MP James Akena said information from his constituency indicated that over 12 people died, not seven as stated by the minister.
He wondered why other district medical staff had received their allowances except those in Lira.
Rebecca Amuge (Lira) revealed that whereas UNICEF had wanted to bail out the ministry on the payment of allowances, efforts to contact ministry officials were futile. She said ever since Lira Hospital was upgraded to a referral unit, it had never received equipment.
Amuge warned the minister against priding in the death rate of 20 people per month in the hospital.
Chris Baryomunsi said health workers in Kanungu were on â€œsilent strikeâ€, which might be worse than an overt strike.
He said there were only two doctors in the district instead of seven.
Rubanda West MP Henry Banyenzaki said there a pending strike in Kabale Hospital and asked the public service ministry to explain why allowances were not paid on time
After the debate, the Kampala Central MP, Erias Lukwago, presented his motion seeking to repeal the Police (Declaration of Gazetted Areas) Statutory Instrument 2007, which bars assemblies in public places.
It was followed by protracted debate that was going on by press time.
Minister shocks MPs on Lira deaths