Sarah Opendi said whereas the withdraw of postgraduate doctors had created some gaps the process of healthcare delivery has not been significantly affected
Members of Parliament on Thursday clashed with State Minister for Health, Sarah Opendi, over the proposal to hire postgraduate medical students from Makerere Collage of Health Science to fill the staffing gaps in Mulago Hospital.
Whereas Opendi argued that there was no crisis necessitating hiring the postgraduate doctors who have since been withdrawn, the MPs said the Hospital was in a crisis and that 10 new-born babies died on November 6th alone.
Presenting a statement on the proposal to hire the students as a stop gap measure, Opendi said contrary to public reports that Mulago loses 15 new born babies every day at its Kawempe branch as a result of the withdraw of the medical students, it is only one baby per day and 30 babies per month.
She explained that even the 30 babies die majorly as a result of severe birth asphyxia and complications associated with prematurity. Severe asphyxia is largely caused by prolonged labour, which is a consequence of late referrals.
"As far as duty coverage is concerned, currently 34 specialists and 5 medical officers are managing the labour suit while 4 specialists are attending to the Special Care Unit. These are backed up by the 79 midwives in the Labour suite, 20 midwives in the special care unit and 21 intern doctors," she said.
She said whereas the withdraw of postgraduate doctors had created some gaps, with a longer patient waiting time in the Out Patient Department, the process of healthcare delivery has not been significantly affected.
"The specialists are now more available at the hospital to attend to the patients. We request the House to disregard the rumour that children are dying as a result of the absence of the postgraduate students and there is no crisis at the National Referral Hospital" she said as members shouted points of order.
MP Willian Nzoghu asked the minister whether she was telling the truth that its only one baby that dies in Mulago per day and demanded that she withdraws the statement.
But before Nzoghu could complete his submission, MP Michael Bukenya, the Parliamentary Health Committee chairperson rejected the Minister's statement saying on November 6, Mulago Hospital lost 10 new born babies and the number is different every day.
On November 1st, when Makerere University was closed, Mulago National Referral Hospital had 350 postgraduate students training in different specialties.
The master's students were doing both theory and practical and the practical training is done in the wards. They work under the supervision of the senior consultants and the professors in the fields of specialty.
"It is a shame to hear that there's no crisis in Mulago when 350 medical personnel have been withdrawn. Children are dying every day due to shortage of staff and the minister comes and says there's no crisis? This is totally unacceptable. I am not comfortable with what is going on and I can't keep quiet when things are not ok," Bukenya said as members shouted "shame"!
MP Bernard Atiku asked the Minister to withdraw what he called "shallow, contradictory statement” and a comprehensive statement be tabled later.
When calls to withdraw the statement increased, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah downplayed the matter and postponed the debate to next week saying there's also another meeting chaired by the President on the matter.
"Let’s debate this matter next week when we have a comprehensive statement from the Ministry of Health and what would have come out of the presidential meeting" he said.
Opendi said the statement was not from the Ministry of Health alone but requested for more time to present a comprehensive statement.