Mulago on the spot for charging Shs 2m before COVID-19 body is released

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Kampala, Uganda | URN | Nathan Mboowa’s father was referred to Mengo hospital after developing breathing problems while in admission at Namungoona Orthodox hospital where he had been battling diabetes.

That Monday night, Mengo hospital had run out of oxygen owing to the increased demand caused by a surge in COVID-19 infections in the country. He ended up being referred to the National Referral at Mulago.

“My father tested negative for COVID-19 and result showed he instead had pneumonia,” Mboowa says.

The 56-year-old however had symptoms which were consistent with the viral respiratory disease that has claimed over a hundred people just in the last three days. A lot of people in the adult male ward where they were admitted were in critical condition and therefore needed treatment with oxygen.

He says they kept putting patients on and off oxygen so that each one of them could get a chance of some treatment as they waited. Mulago had already announced that they were working under extreme pressure to supply oxygen since the plant was only producing 2,999 litres per minute. The hospital had announced that they needed at least 4,000 liters per minute to operate efficiently.

Mboowa saw five people dying on the ward that night due to oxygen shortage. His father died in the wee hours of Wednesday night too as he negotiated with the health workers to pay some money, so that he gets another chance of being connected to oxygen therapy.

By that morning he had already paid more than a million shillings in order to have his father treated.

But, that wasn’t all.  The father’s body was then taken to the mortuary of patients that had succumbed to COVID-19 even as he had been receiving treatment in a non-COVID-19 ward.

Mboowa says health workers said he would find his dad’s body at the KCCA mortuary but couldn’t find him. After hours of a futile search, someone advised that they check with the COVID-19 mortuary where whoever was taking out a body had to pay about Shs 2 million.

Responding to this, Dr. Monica Musenero the Minister for Science and Technology Designate told this publication that having bodies exclusively buried by trained teams is utter extortion.

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Dr. Musenero who is also an epidemiologist says bodies don’t transmit infection and therefore families should be able to take over their bodies once a postmortem is done.

However, what is happening in Mulago is the contrary. Mboowa says you only have to part with not less than Shs 2 million to have your body released.

His testimony is shared by a lady who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity that they charged her Shs 1.2 million for burial of her father on Wednesday 16, June 2021 after long negotiation with the team at Mulago.

When this was put to David Nuwamanya, the Principal Administrator of Mulago, he said the hospital doesn’t charge any fees.