21 February 2013

Uganda: Besigye Scare Shuts Hospital to Patients

Patients headed to Masaka regional referral hospital for treatment were yesterday shocked to realize that they would not gain entry without showing some form of identification.

On Wednesday, the hospital started frisking patients entering the hospital in a new stringent measure to improve security at the facility ordered by Dr Florence Tugumisirize, the hospital director. About 30 patients and their caretakers stood haplessly outside the hospital's main gate after being turned away.

"We experienced a security threat and we decided to improve on our screening methods," Dr Tugumisirize told The Observer on Thursday.

Masaka hospital receives over 2,000 patients every day, some of them referral cases from other health units from as far as Rakai, Sembabule, Kalangala, Lyantonde, Sembabule, Lwengo, Bukomansimbi and Kalungu districts.

Tugumisirize assured the public the measures were not too stringent.

"It is just because some people don't want to be asked for their identifications, we only want to improve the security of the hospital," Tugumisirize said.

Besigye scare

We have learnt that the new measures follow a series of meetings that the hospital administration has been holding with security chiefs in Masaka. The meetings are in response to reports that former FDC President Dr Kizza Besigye had planned to visit the hospital on February 18, and distribute an assortment of items to patients there. Matters came to a head when a one Muhammad Ssegirinya of Kyebando in Kampala wrote to security heads informing them of Besigye's impending visit.

Although FDC leaders announced that their former party leader was not part of the programme, the police were thrown into further panic when a police officer at Masaka police station received an anonymous call informing him that FDC Women league leader Ingrid Turinawe and one of Besigye's aides had arrived in Masaka, on February 15. By Monday morning, the police had deployed heavily around the hospital, throwing patients into panic.

In a bizarre incident, a man leaving the hospital to buy food for his wife, a patient, in the hospital was denied re-entry as he had no identification.

No ministry approval

When asked, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Health, Dr Asuman Lukwago told The Observer that the ministry had not approved the new security measures. He said although he had heard information that the hospital was trying to guard against "hooligans", the security measures were against policy guidelines.

"The hospital is for patients, you cannot inconvenience them because they are the reason why that hospital is there. The [hospital administration] should stop it," Dr Lukwago said.

Two weeks ago, the hospital also lost property to thugs that broke into the private wing and made off with computers and other hospital equipment valued at over Shs 13m.

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