Lumino Health Centre III in Busia District is your typical rural hospital: an old bat-infested main block, a new cream painted block or two, bored and underpaid nurses and medical officers, empty medicine shelves, half a dozen patients writhing in pain but getting very little help from the medical personnel, a wailing mother in the labour room (not theatre!), no water in the taps, overgrown grass, you could go on and on.
That is the hospital many residents of Lumino have come to know today. Its glory – when it was the centre of battling sleeping sickness in the area from 1939 when it was set up by the colonial administration to the late 1940s when the epidemic ebbed – is in the past and most who knew what a lifesaving facility it was have long gone.
Saturday November 15 was, however, different the hospital came alive again shedding off its image as a place of hopelessness by giving treatment and counselling to multitudes of people who turned up to benefit from a free medical camp. The camp had been organised by the Rotary Club of Muyenga Breeze in partnership with the Justice Centre Uganda and the UPDF medical department.
“Rotary is about selflessness and for every ‘rotary year’ we set goals of what we want to achieve by looking at the needs of different communities. This year the Service Projects committee that is chaired by Dr Godfrey Bwire presented a proposal about the need for a health camp at Lumino and after assessment, we realised it’s a service the area needed,” said Kelechi Azubuike, president of the Rotary Club of Muyenga Breeze.
Dr Bwire is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
So with a team of nine 5th-year trainee doctors from Mulago Medical School, two doctors from the army, five medical counsellors from the UPDF and nine lawyers from Justice Centre and Rotary, the group pitched camp at Lumino and the response was overwhelming.
“We had planned for about 1,000 but we have received more than two thousands and more are still coming,” said Mr Azubuike. It was 2pm and the camp was supposed to close at 5pm. Most of those who turned up were 40 and above, and majorly women.
“This means there is a special need for this category of the population that is not being met by the existing health services,” said Rotarian Joanita Sewagudde who was manning the registration desk.
Ms Nabwire, in her mid-40s, had come all the way from Lunyo, a distance of about 8km and she was waiting her turn. Her problem was pain in the joints, headache – and pain all over the body.
Sitting next to her in the suffocating heat under the tent was Ms Namufuta, aged about 20. She had brought her three-year-old daughter who she says was always sickly did not want to eat, was pale and weak, and sweated a lot at night. She had gone to the drug shops many times, buying for her syrups and tablets but not much improvement. Her hope now was in the Rotary doctors that had come to Lumino.
Dr Bernadette Kyoheirwe, who headed the medical team from Mulago, said many of the patients they were seeing had probably not seen a doctor in a long time or ever at all. Many of them had generalised body pains, headache, joint pains and STDs. They were giving them basic treatment and referring the serious cases to bigger hospitals. In this case that would likely be Masafu Health Centre VI, Tororo Hospital or Mbale Regional Referral Hospital.
She said a lot of the people were hypertensive and diabetic but did not know, meaning they could collapse dead anytime from high blood pressure complications. The body pains and headaches many were complaining about are symptoms of hypertension. In a typical rural setting such as this where ignorance runs high, witchcraft would likely be the explanation for sudden deaths.
Dr Henry Bwire told this reporter that in addition to the joint pains and malaria in children, they had also encountered many cases of hernia. Unfortunately those needed operation and this particular medical camp had not planned for that.
The patients told him that a hernia operation at Masafu requires Shs200,000 – and this is unreceipted – besides other hospitalisation costs. This writer could not independently verify this. Treatment in government health centres is supposed to be free.
Some children also needed admission, according to Dr Kyoheirwe but the camp could not do so. She also lamented about the poor laboratory services at the health centre with no reagents to do basic tests. Fortunately the camp had come with basic kits for testing malaria, diabetes, etc.
Warrant Officer II Gilbert Arinaitwe from the UPDF Directorate of HIVAids who was part of the counselling team said from their interaction with clients, it was clear they were not getting adequate counselling support. They were, however, happy to be part of the camp saying, “community outreaches such as this brings the army close to the people and offers a vital service to the sick”.
The legal team too found an overwhelming need for services and the recurring problem revolved around land succession with womenwidows and female children being oppressed. “We have been giving them basic legal aice and for ongoing cases we will provide legal support. For those cases not yet in court, we have registered them and will later try to mediate,” said Emmanuel Ojilong from Justice Centre Uganda (Tororo branch).
For Rotary Club of Muyenga Breeze, the lead organisers of the camp, this is something they hope to continue doing in different parts of the country. “People need a lot of medical care and this should be done more often. More Ugandans should get involved in charity work like this to help fill the gap,” said Rotarian Sheila Mujuni.
Indeed the Rotary Club of Muyenga Breeze has organised another medical charity, a Neuro-surgery camp at Corsu Centre in Kisubi along Entebbe road on November 26 and December 5. A top neuro surgeon from Australia, Dr John Christie, and Uganda’s foremost neuro surgeon Dr Kiryabwire are expected to carry out a number of operations, according to Muyenga Breeze president Azubuike. Thirty neuro patients have already been screened ahead of the camp.
Rotary Club of Muyenga Breeze has only 30 members. If they can do so much, how much more can Ugandans do if they put their hands together?
SOURCE: Daily Monitor