Soroti, Uganda | URN | Margret Iloku, 63, has spent almost two weeks weeding the ground nuts of nurses at Princess Diana Health Centre IV in Soroti city after failing to clear the medical bills of her daughter-in-law, Grace Acen who was admitted to the facility after cesarean birth.
Iloku, a resident of Tukum in Soroti district, eastern Uganda, arrived at the facility empty-handed expecting free services at the government health unit. But on arrival, she was asked to pay for the file that the facility gives to patients at Shs 3,000.
As she was struggling to raise the money for the file, the nurses asked for another Shs 20,000 to enable them to buy Jik detergent, powder soap, and toilet paper – requirements for every expectant mother in labour at the facility.
Iloku was stuck and resorted to seeking help from fellow patient attendants in the ward. As she moved around helplessly, she was told that some nurses in the facility have garden work that needs labour. Iloku, who is also suffering from a joint dislocation offered to work to raise money in order to access help from the facility.
However, three days later, her patient failed to push the baby, a condition that required a cesarean section. As Iloku prepared the patient for an operation in the theatre, she was told to deposit Shs 300,000 before the operation could proceed. Iloku had no money, prompting the medics to delay the operation. She later managed to raise only Shs 130,000 out of the required medical bills — after making several SOS calls back home.
After the operation, Iloku had to buy some drugs recommended by the medics to ease pain and facilitate the recovery of the patient. This added to her manual labour assignment in the garden to enable her to get the money to pay the bills.
By the time our reporter visited the facility, Iloku was still in the garden, five days after her patient was discharged. She told our reporter that she couldn’t go with the patient home since there were still pending medical bills to be cleared.
Ilolu isn’t alone in the struggle for health services at Princess Diana Health Centre IV. Many other inpatient attendants who fail to pay for the service end up in the gardens of health workers in the facility.
Florence Awayo, another patient attendant in the maternity ward also ended up in the maize garden of one of the nurses to buy a file and waiver for the Shs 20,000 meant for Jik detergent, powder soap, and toilet papers.
Awayo’s patient also had a cesarean section, for which she paid Shs 150,000. She told our reporter that much as the patient was taken to the theatre before the money was deposited, the medics threatened to kill her patient in case she failed to pay the required fees.
Dr Alfred Anyonga, the in-charge Princess Diana Health Centre IV says that he’s not aware of the charges in the facility except in situations where the anaesthetists are not available. He said that the facility doesn’t have an anaesthetist, sometimes requiring services from the regional referral hospital.
Princess Diana Health Centre IV has been on the spot over extortion by the staff for some time. The outcry attracted the interventions of the area Woman MP, Resident City Commissioner, and city authorities last year.