The administrators of Kawempe National Referral Hospital in Kampala have come under intense scrutiny from members of parliament over the alleged extortion by medical workers at the facility.
The officials were appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Central Government to respond to queries in the Auditor General’s report for the FY 2020/2021 led by their Executive Director, Dr. Nehemiah Katusiime Arwanire on Wednesday.
The legislators put the officials on the spot over public complaints relating to the illegal fees at the hospital.
The Hospital is mandated to provide quality and specialized health care in obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, pediatric surgery, adolescent health, HIV care, out-patient dental services and to enhance research and medical training in line with the Ministry of Health policy.
Muhamad Nsegumire Kibedi, the Mityana North County MP pinned the officials for extorting money from patients, charging them exorbitant fees ranging from Sh 30,000 to 60,000 as consultation fees, and providing them beds, and gloves among other requirements yet the services are supposed to be free.
Tororo District Woman Member of parliament, Sarah Achieng Opendi corroborated Kibedi’s submission, who as the former State Minister for Primary Healthcare supervised the Hospital.
She blamed the burden of corruption on greedy personnel resulting from the overwhelming number of patients.
But Silas Aogon, the Kumi Municipality MP disagreed with Opendi’s response arguing that acts of illegality must not be justified by the numbers.
He proposed that the Committee conducts an impromptu fact-finding visit to the facility as a measure to hold the Hospital accountable.
In his response, Dr. Arwanire admitted that extortion is one of the cancers eating up the country’s health sector, adding that some errant staff at the facility have been arrested for the vice and facing trial in the courts of law.
Dr. Arwanire further disclosed that his management has established some measures such as mounting Close Circuit Television Video (CCTV ) cameras at the facility to monitor personnel, planting spies, and sensitizing patients to name, and shame the implicated staff to help the public report cases of corruption.
The Committee Vice-Chairperson, Asuman Basalirwa, who doubles as the Bugiri Municipality MP tasked the Director to provide proof of the said measures including milestones achieved, including the names of the interdicted staff.
Also known as Kawempe General Hospital, the facility is an urban, specialized hospital built between 2014 and 2016 at an estimated cost of US$11.3 million, about Sh 40.6 billion.
The Government constructed the hospital with funding from the African Development Bank and the Nigeria Trust Fund, targeting at least two million people, but its catchment has swollen to over 4.5 million people annually due to rapid urbanization.