Busia — Buteba Health Centre III in Busia District was a scene of grief on Tuesday after two mothers lost their babies due to alleged absence of midwives at the facility.
Both mothers had delivered twins with the help of a traditional birth attendant (TBA) identified as Ms Theresa Akatekit, 70, who had stood in for the midwives. However, three of the babies died thereafter, drawing the wrath of residents.
Area residents and patients told Daily Monitor that the health workers regularly assign Ms Akatekit to stay at the health centre, especially at the weekends, and help in the delivery of mothers whenever the midwives are absent.
The TBA confirmed the claims.
"l am always left here to deliver mothers whenever midwives are away but they do not pay me. I just volunteer," she said.
Ms Sarah Nambuya, one of the mothers who lost her twins, said she arrived at the health facility at 11pm on Monday night but there was no midwife or health worker to attend to her.
"When I started experiencing labour pains, I came to the hospital but I only found the traditional birth attendant. She tried to help me to deliver but she failed. I lost all my babies in the process," the teary Akatekit said.
Ms Scovia Namutosi, who lost one of her two babies, said she also reached the facility in time but she did not find any midwives.
"We tried to ask if any of them was present but we were informed that we would be helped by the old woman [TBA] we found at the facility," she said.
Ms Namutosi said although the traditional birth attendant delivered her safely, one baby died in the morning hours.
"But at about 5am, one of the babies passed on while the other baby developed complications and is breathing with difficulty," she said.
Police then moved in and arrested the health workers, including the in-charge of the facility, Mr Kitara Ojok, Mr David Were, a clinical officer, a nurse and two midwives.
Mr Eriya Eletot, the district police commander, said the suspects are currently held at Busia Police Station on charges of negligence of duty.
Ms Bena Nanyama, the district health officer, who visited the facility following the incident, said it was unbelievable that qualified medical staff had left the maternity wing to a TBA.
The Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Walter Iriama, said the medical staff will also be interdicted.
Ms Khadija Nowerina, a resident, said they have for long raised the issue of absenteeism of the health workers at the facility with the authorities in vain.