A swarm of files and stench was what welcomed you when you set foot at Moroto Referral Hospital a few years ago.
Those who were brave enough to visit the hospital to seek medical care will share not so amusing tales.
Everything at the facility was in disarray. The hospital was housed in dilapidated structures with no functional mortuary.
The smell from the collapsed sewerage system was nauseating to the point that nearby restaurants opted to close because they were being shunned.
The pharmacy had little to offer save for pain killers and perhaps two treatment options for malaria and typhoid.
When night fell, Karimojong warriors who could not walk safely back to their homesteads would freely walk in to the facility help themselves to the hospital beds.
Several medical staff posted to the facility shunned the transfer preferring to remain unemployed than take up jobs at a hospital with appalling conditions.
New doctors posted there would only last one hospital round and abandon their tools because the hospital was plagued by insecurity and shortage of accommodation.
Even when the Ministry of Health raised salaries of doctors to Shs1.5m with an additional hard-to-reach allowance, many were reluctant to work in Karamoja.
The hospital then
Joseph Lokol, an elder and a resident of Acholin village in Moroto Municipality recalls how the hospital used to be a death trap.
He says even dead bodies would be dumped in the hospital compound because there was nowhere else to keep them.
“That was not a hospital it was a death trap for patients. Nobody wanted to go there because if you bothered to go there, you would leave it in a worse condition,” he says.
Sarah Nachap, a mother of six children and a resident of Natumukathko village in Moroto Municipality, said expectant mothers shunned the hospital because there were no doctors to attend to them.
“Although there were medical personnel, most of them were only clinical doctors,” she says.
But the story is significantly different now. The government with support from World Bank, injected Shs25b in the facility and upgraded it. Now Moroto Regional Referral Hospital is a place people are not afraid to walk in and seek medical attention.
There are also readily available doctors ready to address the needs of patients.
The hospital has got a new block which houses outpatient departments that can accommodate up to 500 patients it also has storeyed houses that have helped the hospital to accommodate 60 of 166 staff the hospital employs.
According to the hospital management, the hospital has been spending Shs70m annually on rent for staff but the expenditure has significantly reduced following the construction of new staff houses.
The newly refurbished Moroto hospital is the first storeyed building in Karamoja.
Dr Filbert Nyeko, the hospital director, lauded government for the new outpatient block, saying it would provide quality services to the people of Karamoja and surrounding regions.
“We are very happy with the government for changing the face of Moroto Regional Referral Hospital which will now attract people,” Dr Nyeko said, adding that the government also drilled two boreholes, one of them solar-powered while one is connected to the national electricity grid to help supply water to the hospital.
The hospital has security lights also connected to the national electricity grid unlike before when the hospital would operate in darkness when the generator it had run out of fuel.
And now, medical personnel are beginning to comfortably settle in the district without fear of insecurity.
What staff say
Geoffrey Mawa, the principal administrator of the hospital, is one of those and says there have been transfers made in the hospital. He was transferred from Arua Referral Hospital. He says the hospital has also got new staff including gynaecologists, senior dental surgeons and a number of nurses and those working in administration. So far five new staff have been posted and are already working in the hospital and there are arrangements to recruit 30 others, Mawa says.
Susan Niyigena, the in-charge of the main operation theatre at Moroto hospital, who hails from Kisoro District, says it was hard when she first started moved to Moroto.
“I have worked in Moroto hospital for five years but when I was coming, my people discouraged me saying I would be killed,” she says. Niyigena, who first worked in Kampala International Hospital Teaching University, says her first impressions of the theatre was that it was dirty. “Although several lives were saved, the theatre had no clear lights and sometimes doctors used torches while operating on patients, she says.
Niyingen and Dr Paul Odaka, the in-charge of surgical ward, attest to the shortage of accommodation. They were accommodated in the mental unit but could not sleep in their rooms due to noise from patients which nearly forced them to leave the hospital.
When they got accommodation at one of new housing units, their morale was boosted.
Both residents and staff are happy with the improvements at the hospital and are now positive that things will even get better.
SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR