- Folktale is that Kitagata hot springs cure diseases
- Hospital dilapidated and rotting
By Ali Wasswa
Patients have continued to shun the dilapidated and rotting Kitagata Hospital in Sheema South, Bushenyi district owing to the presence of hot springs in the area where locals flock to have their various diseases cured.
The hospital was constructed by Milton Obote in 1969. It is one of the hospitals that was constructed in western Uganda together with Kambuga, Itojo and Kabale to get services closer to people from Kasese, Rukungiri and Bushenyi who could not make it all the way to Mbarara.
However the hospital is dilapidated and rotting as residents have abandoned it for the magical hot springs! Sr. Rose Kataryebwa, one of the nurses at the hospital told this reporter that the springs have a lot of medicine and actually cure diseases!
Here is what the mattresses in the wards look like. "Pathetic" is the word.
Hana Kyoshaba, another nurse concurs and says that she has personally been cured by drinking water from the springs! This mindset has driven many of the residents to abandon the hospital, leaving it to waste and in ruins.
Recently the parliamentary sessional committee on Health headed by Dr. Sam Lyomoki visited the hospital and MPs were left flabbergasted.
The walls of the 44-year old hospital have algae growing on them; the toilets remind you of those creepy movie scenes out of which crawl the dead and water is fetched in jerrycans from springs!
The head of the hospital, Dr. Aine Byabashija, says he works there simply because he hails from the area but he is saddened that the hospital has been abandoned and left to ruin because of the hot springs.
Dr. Byabashija took this reporter around the hospital wards that are practically dotted with torn mattresses that are rotting; wards that are supposed to be staffed with 10 nurses have just one while the facility is in darkness with an outstanding power bill of sh25m.
Owing to this, fridges (below, right) supposed to be stocked with vaccines are empty and are now playground for cockroaches.
The houses supposed to accommodate staff are dilapidated structures that appear like a long abandoned village in Cambodia during the 1975 guerilla war!
"In fact the hospital itself is sick and needs water from the hot springs!" this reporter surmised .
The hot springs
On a typical day, the springs are dotted with old women, their infirm breasts sagging, quietly and peacefully bathing.
Babies are supposed to be in nappies while men either wrap a cloth around the waist or wear briefs to conceal their manhood, all bathing in what seems like a ritual!
However in the night men and women bathe in the springs stark naked under the cover of darkness. The springs are said to heal bad acne, cancer and other terminal illnesses.
Kitagata is a Runyankole word meaning warm water so the springs were named so because of their so called ability to cure diseases.
Geresom Kabasekye the in-charge of the springs says between 800 and 1000 people flock Kitagata to seek the magical healing waters!
“This place is like Mulago hospital where people go as a last resort,” Kabasekye says. The springs have two prominet spots; Mulago which is believed to cure diseases the most and 'Ekitagata kyomugabe', meaning the springs of the Omugabe of Ankole.
RIPPLING EFFECT: The spot at the springs where the hottest water comes from. It is believed the water cures the most.
The springs were discovered by a scholar in 1904. Since then people from far and wide flock the place seeking cure for diseases. Kabasekye says visitors come from Sembabule and all over Ankole, while others come from Kampala.
The springs have become a huge source of income for locals. Whereas a plate of food used to cost sh500 now one can now even buy one at sh5,000.
At Kitagata hot springs, those seeking to cure diseases bathe can only drink it before 10.00am before it gets too hot to cure cancer or ulcers for example.
In the evening you can bathe for close to seven hours because at that time the water is just warm. There are a few rules that govern the use of the springs:
You are not supposed to fight from there; it is a no smoking area and you don’t bathe with soap; and children are bathe in nappies or diapers. Kabasekye says the rules were put to conserve hygiene.
Francis Busire of Ntung’amo testifies that he has lived with cancer for 42 years but when he drank the water from the springs he got better though he did not completely heal.
Penelope Kyosiimire, 24 says whenever she contracts a skin disease she bathes in the springs and heals immediately
The hospital facilities are in ruin as patients opt for the springs to cure diseases
However experts argue that much as the springs might have ingredients such as salts, they do not heal at all.
Recently Moses Kakaaya led a team from Save for Health Uganda to research about the magical powers of the water and discovered that they don't have healing powers!
“Herbalists in the area misguide people and convince them that the water from the springs cures diseases which is not true,” Kakaaya says.