By Beatrice Nyangoma
On a rainy Tuesday morning, Agnes Kirabo braved the cold and by 8am, she was in the queue for her third antenatal check-up from Njeru health center III located in Namwezi village, Njeru West of Buikwe district.
She is expecting her third child and she was the 31st patient to register at maternity ward of the facility.
Kirabo says that she has to spend at least four hours before she is attended to because the queue is always long .
But the most worrying thing for Kirabo is the fact that she will have to deliver her baby from another hospital.
“I have to save money for transport to Jinja Regional Referral hospital at the time of delivery because Njeru health centre does not admit patients. I always have to spend over 100,000 Shillings whenever I go to another hospital to deliver.”she says
Sarah Nakigozi , an enrolled nurse at the health center says that the facility records close to 200 patients everyday and yet its premises were constructed in 1973 for not more than 30 patients as a private health centre.
She however notes that the facility was not expanded when government took it over in 2001.The government’s take over of the facility was after the residents raised concerns about lack of a health centre III in the area.
She however adds that even the patients are in most cases turned away because the unit rarely has drugs in stock. She says that National Medical Stores-NMS supplies drugs every after two months. She however notes that the drugs supplied are less compared to the number of patients adding that some times the drugs are consumed within just one week.
Nakigozi adds that most HIV/AIDS and TB patients are referred to St. Francis hospital, a non governmental facility where free services are offered while others are referred to Jinja and Kawolo hospitals.
She also notes that the facility has staff shortage of six people. She adds that the eight people at the facility are very few and yet the number of patients is overwhelming.
The centre is also in toilet crisis since they filled up two years ago. Nakigozi says that the health unit administration decided to close down the toilets after they failed to get money maintain them. She however adds that the toilet crisis endangers the lives of the workers and patients.
Margret Hashasha, the deputy speaker for Njeru Town Council notes that efforts by the council to secure funds to buy land to relocate the centre have been futile because of the limited budgets. She however notes that the council has secured 20 million to construct a waterborne toilet this financial year.
She says that the facility records a huge number of patients because the district lacks a district hospital and yet Njeru health centre is located on the highway. She adds that the centre is bridging the distance between Kawolo and Jinja hospitals which would be the other options. Most of the patients come from Najjembe, Lugazi, Wakisi and Njeru municipality.
Hashasha also told that the council has started on the process of elevating the facility to a health centre IV or constructing one in another area to ease the burden on Njeru health centre. She however adds that this the council is yet to find funds for this transition.
She says the facility serves a number of patients but the challenges it has need to be urgently addressed.
Between 2000 and 2015, Uganda has reduced the maternal mortality ration from 560 to 368 per 100,000 and under five mortality from 687 to 343 per 1000rate albeit at a slow pace.
Health advocates have attributed the slow progress to shortages in human resources for health, persistent stockout of drugs inclusive of family planning and reproductive health commodities and poor infrastructure, among others.