Last year, in preparation for the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the Government earmarked sh3.7b for the rehabilitation of Mulago and Entebbe Grade B hospitals. But skeptics were quick to express pessimism as to whether the work would be done.
For those that still live to see the sun rise, a visit to Mulago Hospital will confirm that the major referral hospital needs an overhaul. Just outside the gynaecology/obstetrics clinic, a frail looking pregnant motherâ€”probably in labour by the look on her faceâ€” emerges from the side stairs.
The lifts, which were in superb condition during CHOGM are no longer functional. â€œOnly two out of the seven hospital lifts are functioning. One on Block B and another on block C. Even for these ones the functionality is not guaranteed. Sometimes they are off,â€ says a midwife who pleads for anonymity.
â€œTo move a patient from casualty to the gynaecology/obstetrics clinic on fifth floor, or the eye clinic and the ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) unit, you must use the steps. If the patient canâ€™t walk, you have to carry them up,â€ she adds.
Mulago Hospitals Complex blocks on A, B, and C have two lifts each. The seventh is on the casualty ward. â€œThat one worked for only one month,â€ the midwife says before exiting hurriedly with an excuse of â€˜duty callsâ€™.
The health facility whose last major overhaul was done in 1962, received about sh230m meant to renovate lifts alone. Other monies were earmarked for refurbishing the private wing (Private Patients Services), intensive care and casualty units in addition to the mortuary, laboratories and the theatre.
It also catered for purchase of two additional ambulances, drugs and sundries, general painting (face-lifting) of the busy old-looking complex and planting of flowers, which were additionally fenced off from undisciplined pedestrians.
The â€˜flowersâ€™ are visible all the way from the main gate to the main entrance at the complex although quite scanty. On a positive note though, the chemistry, microbiology and haematology laboratories, which were the beneficiaries, are functional.
â€œCHOGM was good news for us. The quality of our laboratory procedures has greatly improved. All our tests like blood culture, blood count, which are complex can be done here now. We no longer refer patients to external facilities,â€ says the hospitalâ€™s public relations officer, Eliphaz Sekabira.
â€œThe mortuary is an example of the CHOGM benefits. There are no longer smelly bodies. It is quite habitable for attendants and those that come to claim their bodies,â€ Sekabira says evading questions on the wanting state of other areas.
Nonetheless, an official in one of the administrative units, who also prefers anonymity for fear of the job, alleges that the CHOGM money that was meant for renovation was misused.
â€œWe got dialysis machines and ambulances, but some are already â€˜dead.â€™ Itâ€™s only a matter of time. We will be back to square one,â€ she says â€œIf we have not maintained the old ones with our annual budget, how special will these ones be? They will rot away like the rest.â€
In October 2007, Mulago Hospital, in conjunction with St. Johnâ€™s Ambulance, trained for over 300 staff in communication skills among other things. But observing the staff on duty, there is no doubt that the good reception was meant for only the â€˜very important guestsâ€™.
Attempts to enter the general labour ward is blocked with the rude statement, â€œWhat do you want here if you are not pregnant. If unlabouring mothers can wait, what about you?â€ Attempts to reach Dr. Iga Matovu, the in charge private wing, does not yield any results.
â€œI cannot comment on anything without permission from the director. Neither am I willing to give my personal opinions,â€ he says when asked how they are maintaining the facilities refurbished during CHOGM.
While Dr. Edward Ddumba, executive director of the facility, who was also the chairperson of the CHOGM medical subcommittee says, â€œI have no comment on the state of Mulago after CHOGM. You can use whatever observations you have noted or whatever comments you have got. I do not care,â€ he says and hangs up.
Mulago a year after CHOGM, only lab technicians can smile