Uganda’s National referral hospital is a haven of inefficiency and demoralized health personnel.
But this stereo type was challenged following the admission of my 2 year old daughter Lyton Nabukeera into the hospital’s Burns department last week.
Initially, we had taken Nabukeera to Ruth Gaylord Hospital at Jinja Karoli in Kawempe Division after her right leg got badly burnt from thigh to ankle when she accidentally dipped her lower part into hot soup.
After applying several first aid measures including cold water, her mother rushed her in shock to the nearest clinic where two injections were administered before she proceeded to Gaylord on the advice of locals purposely to have an anti tetanus injection administered to her.
To our surprise and disappointment, treatment at Gaylord for which we were charged more than Ushs150,000 soon elapsed within three days without being admitted and we were told to continue using a couple of drugs while dressing the continually festering and expanding wound from home!
After realizing that Nabukeera’s health was deteriorating with each passing hour including the growing threat of the contracture muscles at her knee joint, we rushed to Mulago hospital and arrived at ward 2B which is temporarily serving as the causality ward during the ongoing rehabilitation programme of the hospital.
To my pleasant surprise, burns and accidents of all forms are given first priority at Mulago, regardless of whether they are referred or not. It took us hardly half an hour before we saw the doctor who on first sight announced the girl was going to be admitted, blaming us for delaying to bring the now dangerously festering wound to the hospital’s attention.
Within the first hour of admission at ward 2C the wound was already dressed and bandaged after applying a morphine injection to relieve the intense pain Nabukeera was enduring. According to the medical report by the doctor on duty that night, the effect of the burn had spread to the entire surface area of her right leg totaling up to 12% of her entire skin surface area.
The bandage was regularly replaced after an interval of two days as she continued on treatment of drugs some of which we got freely from the facility’s pharmacy while we bought the rest from external pharmacies until our baby was discharged in a week’s time.
Dr. Tereza Nanteza who works with the plastic and reconstructive surgery department criticized caretakers who take patients with serious burns and accident wounds to clinics only to realise they are too much for them and then turn to Mulago as a last resort.
“It is unfortunate that many patients come here with old wounds which have already become complicated because of the way they are mishandled in the first place. In fact some of them come here when there is little we can do to save their lives and then they shift the blame on Mulago accusing us of inefficiency,” Nanteza says.
Many patients and attendants including yours truly, agree with Nanteza based on the fast rate of recovery manifested in patients who rush to Mulago immediately after (fire) accidents have occurred.
Esther Nanyonga whose son Victor Muwanguzi was discharged after six weeks told The Sunrise that her son who was terribly burnt by a mosquito net had little chance of survival if he was not rushed to Mulago within hours of the accident.
“Am now very happy that he has been discharged after six week. All the wounds are now dry and we shall be coming from home for reviews and later on deal with scars,” Nanyonga happily said.
“We took about a month treating burns in several dispensaries in Kibale District and by the time we came to Mulago a week ago the boy’s wounds were so septic to the extent that I could see both the bones and intestines,” said Theopista Nyamata whose son died within one week of admission.
Edith Murari, a retired pediatrician boasting of a 30 years experience at Mulago hospital attributes people’s shunning of Mulago hospital to impatience and ignorance.
“Aware of the fact that Mulago as a national referral facility is meant to offer free services to thousands of Ugandans, we need to exercise some degree of patience especially when doctors are sometimes preoccupied with more serious cases requiring more intensive attention than ours until our turn come,” Murari says.
“It is also funny that some attendants are hesitant to bring patients to Mulago fearing that they will be admitted depending on the seriousness of the condition compared to clinics where they are allowed to take treatment coming from their homes as they go about their businesses as usual” Murari adds.