Buikwe — Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) have been deployed at Kawolo hospital in Buikwe District to crack down on the theft of building materials following a public request.
The health facility is currently undergoing renovation and expansion.
Residents and the hospital administration through the Resident District Commissioner, Ms Jane Frances Kagayi, called for the army's intervention after efforts by a private security company and police proved futile.
Thugs have been stealing cement, iron bars, doors, solar panels and taps, among other materials.
Daily Monitor learnt that private guards and police officers were withdrawn on May 9 while at least 20 UPDF soldiers from UPDF Engineering Brigade, Lugazi took over.
Dr Joshua Kiberu, the hospital medical superintendent, said the deployment will improve security.
"The situation has been terrible, some of us could not catch sleep ever since the renovation works started. Now that the soldiers are here, we know they are going to solve this problem (theft)," Dr Kiberu said in an interview last week.
"Those people (thieves) have been stealing anything they could come across, and we were getting worried that one time, they might steal our patients," he added.
Dr Kiberu also said they are now challenged with replacing stolen items from the new buildings that have already been handed over.
"The contractor has been handing over whatever building he completes so that we can start using them for our daily operations. It is from these buildings where expensive items such as solar panels and doors, among others things, have been stolen," he said.
Dr Kiberu said the administration is yet to compute the amount of money lost in the theft.
The renovation works are being undertaken by Excel Construction Company Ltd at a tune of Shs39b.
Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson, said he was not aware of the deployment and referred us to UPDF officers at Gaddafi Barracks in Jinja District.
Ms Kagayi, who chairs the district security committee, said deployment was a last resort.
"It was a hard decision to take, but we had nothing to do. Let our people cooperate with them (soldiers) by giving them information about that racket of stealing building materials," she said.
Mr Steven Kikawula Mugoya, a councillor representing Kiwawula Ward at Lugazi Municipality, welcomed the deployment.
"They have taken so long to come, but it is good they have responded and we do not expect to hear any more stealing of property," Mr Mugoya said.
A soldier, who talked to this newspaper on condition of anonymity since he is not the authorised to speak to the press, urged patients and caregivers not worry about their presence, saying they are there to restore sanity.
"We act differently in situations like this. So, those who have been surviving on stealing from this government facility, they should not dare step here again," the army officer said.
Kawolo hospital had not received major renovation since 1968. The hospital administrator, Dr Joshua Kiberu, said more than 90 per cent of the renovation works have been done, adding that fixing some machines and erection of a perimeter wall are left. Among the new facilities constructed are a trauma centre, a modern mortuary, new out-patient block, four staff houses and two operating theatres. The hospital has also been boosted with harvest tanks. The project, which will officially be handed over to government later this year, is funded by the Spanish government.