opinionBy Olive Lumonya
THE media has been awash with the sad news of the breakdown of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mulago referral Hospital and the unfortunate incidents of deaths due to lack of the facility.
On the other hand, a newly donated Intensive Care Unit lies underutilised at Jinja Hospital.
Recently, I visited the hospital and was able to see the beautiful unit that houses the ICU equipment.
Some doctors indicated that only two doctors had been sent for training and to-date the equipment is not yet in full use.
They pointed out the need to train more staff by combining from various regional hospitals and that the qualifi ed personnel from Kampala would not be willing to transfer to Jinja.
On the other hand, setting up such a unit in Jinja would require that the Ministry of Health gazettes the ICU for the whole of the Eastern region or more to ensure adequate usage and that would mean all referrals from the hospitals in the East or so would be made to Jinja Hospital.
This would reduce the number of patients at Mulago ICU and also ensure effective usage of the facility.
The Jinja intensive care unit was commissioned on July 16 2009. This story was reported in the New Vision of July 18 2009. The most unfortunate fact is that the Jinja Hospital ICU has not been put to full use since it was commissioned three years ago.
The hospital does not have the technical/ expertise to use the equipment. According to available information, the donor offered free training and maintenance for the equipment.
The hospital does not have critical resources like anaesthologist or neurosurgeon's trained for the unit.
Today, the Mulago ICU is run down and we are losing lives and these numbers will most likely increase because the majority patients cannot afford private hospitals.
Would it not it be better for the ICU in Jinja Hospital to quickly handle the patients from Mulago temporarily with the technical expertise from Mulago Hospital?
I was told that protocol or credibility would not allow a national referral hospital to refer patients to regional referral hospitals unless if the minister opened the lid.
If this is true, then such systems would be hurting the very purpose of their existence. Would it not be better to break the rules of bureaucracy and save lives?
After all it would be a temporary arrangement. The ICU equipment which included an operating theatre equipped with state-of-the-art equipment worth $1m (sh2.1b) was donated by California-based Assist International and General Electric companies.
The equipment included among others, a modern x-ray machine, ultra-sound machines, modern operating room equipment, washing machines and an intensive care unit.
Construction of the structure, worth sh800m was funded by the Ministry of Finance.
There is need for the health ministry to train specialists in intensive care management, proper management and maintenance of the equipment.
This will ensure adequate usage of the equipment and save lives. As we start the long journey of the next 50 years, how can we improve the health sector and improve the health of Ugandans?
The Uganda of the next 50 years should pride in healthy Ugandans.
Writer is head of marketing and communications NSSF.