Mengo hospital in Kampala has initiated a partnership with a private firm to manage its mortuary and provide modern funeral services.
The hospital's partnership with A-Plus group should be applauded for its innovation and pragmatic approach to an issue that has left many a Ugandan hospital, especially the public facilities, looking ugly. In many Ugandan hospitals, mortuaries are in such a sorry state that bereaved people dread having to pick up bodies of their loved ones from there.
Tales of maggots and blood-dripping bodies piled onto each other are not uncommon. The city mortuary at Mulago hospital is one of the most dreaded of such health facilities. It's a cultural imperative and human obligation that the dead be treated with honour and dignity, and one way to live by that is to improve the services in our mortuaries through more funding or other means.
But where health facilities find maintaining mortuaries such an expense or a bother, they can as well borrow a leaf from Mengo hospital and let out the service to other players in the interest of efficiency. In the case of public hospitals, the onus is primarily on government to uplift the standard of the mortuaries. However, this government, faced with a myriad of challenges in the health sector already, doesn't appear to be anywhere near prioritising mortuary services.
Little wonder, therefore, that back in August, the minister of state for health, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, called for the privatisation of mortuaries in public hospitals. Although in a sense this amounts to government absconding its duties, we say it's better to charge a modest fee and offer a decent service than pretend that it is free and yet in reality people have to pay unregulated fees for a horrible service.
More interestingly, this partnership provides for space for vigils, targeting city residents who live in rented flats or mizigo (bed sitters) and thus can't practically host mourners at their homes after losing loved ones.