Kampala, Uganda | URN | Locals have expressed dismay at the closure of Kawempe North Hospital founded by jailed Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya.
Established in July 2021, the health centre started experiencing challenges following the arrest and subsequent jailing of the Ssegirinya on a string of accusations including terrorism, attempted murder, and murder. The MP together with his Makindye West MP have spent more than a year on remand.
The health centre has been dysfunctional since December 23, 2022, due to the lack of funding. On Wednesday 25 January 2023, the management decided to close shop and donate the equipment and medicines in the facility to other health centres in the constituency.
Alex Luwemba, an administrator at the now defunct Kawempe North hospital and Ssegirinya’s personal assistant said in a phone interview that the facility has been going through severe financial hardships, under which it couldn’t survive.
“The centre required a monthly budget of more than Shs 5 million, which we could not raise. Though predominantly the health centre has been providing free services, we introduced payment of a nominal fee, reduced staff to 10 from 30, but still failed to raise the money,” he said.
According to Luwemba, the facility also suffered political interference as area politicians and government agencies sabotaged their efforts to find money to run the facility.
“The facility had accumulated up to Shs 10 million in rent arrears. Although we had agreed with our landlord on the payment plan, area politicians who are against the project bad-mouthed the project and the landlord changed his mind. Remember police had since barred us from rising money from the channels we thought could help,” Luwemba explained.
Locals are dismayed by the complete closure of the health centre, which they say came along with numerous advantages to their community. Sarah Namuddu, who has been using this facility for her routine hypertension checks, says that since it was established near her home, it had saved her the trouble of moving a long distance to the previous health centre where she was doing the checks from.
For other locals, Kawempe North hospital has been a source of customers for their businesses. Justine Namtovu, a food vendor, says that her biggest clientele has been the patients at the health centre, adding that she started her business as a result of seeing patients struggling to find food.
A boda boda rider, who preferred anonymity, said they established a stage next to the health centre when it opened such that they could tap into its patients and staff who needed transport. The ten-bed health centre would receive an average of up to 175 outpatients every month. A former administrator also revealed that they could deliver at least five mothers every month.