Fifty — two villages in Buyende Sub-county, Buyende District are racing against time to raise Shs9m and settle the balance for land meant to upgrade their health facility.
This follows a government policy that every sub-county must have a health centre III.
Kakooge Health Centre II in Mailo Village is the only public health facility in Buyende Sub-county. The facility serves 52 villages across five parishes including Namusita, Ikanda, Ndolwa, Wesunire and Mango with a combined population of more than 50,000 residents.
In May last year, the Uganda Reproductive Maternal Child Health Improvement Project, a Ministry of Health scheme in partnership with the World Bank, asked the facility to get land for expansion.
Four acres of land were secured at Shs16m; however, the community only managed to mobilise Shs7 million.
Dr Daniel Achoda, the in-charge of the facility, on Wednesday said the upgrade was expected to start in March but stalled because owners of the land wanted their balance and also because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
"The community took more than a year to mobilise for Shs7m and we fear all their efforts will go to waste if no intervention is obtained. The money was mobilised before the project was approved and by March, Shs7m had been raised.
"Unfortunately, Covid-19 came in and the community is impoverished. Engineers from the Ministry of Health came, took measurements and approved the site; but the project can't proceed until the outstanding balance is cleared," Dr Achoda said.
According to Dr Achoda, government does not buy land for expansion. Instead, it expects the community to provide the land as it provides resources for development.
"Even the land on which the current facility sits wasn't offered by government but by somebody several years ago. It was offered by a community volunteer and started as a community health facility.
"It wasn't even constructed by government but by self-help and Action Aid; and this time, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary sent a letter asking us to confirm the availability of land before the project can take off," Dr Achoda said.
When contacted, the Ministry of Health Spokesperson, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, said: "The health facility or community can identify land (for expansion or upgrade), but it is better if the community already has land."
Earlier, Mr Richard Tumwesigye, the secretary of the mobilisation committee, said they raised Shs7m after moving from home-to-home.
Dr Achoda said their sub-county has a big catchment of HIV prevalence, being located at the shores of Lake Kyoga.
"It is also the sub-county with the highest population growth rate in Buyende District standing at 7 per cent against the country's average of 3.2 per cent; and also has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the district standing at 28 per cent," he added.
Benefits of upgrading
The in-charge of the facility said upgrading the facility would lead to an increase in service delivery and the amount of drug stockout from the current Shs1.2m they receive bi-monthly to Shs4.4m.
Mr Achoda added that there will also be an increase in the Primary Healthcare grant from Shs1.5m per quarter to Shs17m.
He said the facility receives an average of 100 patients on a daily basis but most expectant mothers are usually referred due to lack of either equipment or space.
He further decried the lack of an ambulance at the facility, which he said makes it hard for referrals to other health facilities such as Buyende Health Centre III, which is about 25 kilometres.
Dr Achoda said the healthcare also lacks laboratory services, safe male circumcision, HIV counselling and treatment, among others.
The sub-county chairperson, Mr Henry Batwaula, said about 50,000 locals stand to use the new facility.
Mr Batwaula said it will be "a very big blow" if they miss such a long-awaited opportunity as some patients, especially expectant mothers, die while being referred to other health facilities.
The Buyende Resident District Commissioner, Mr Richard Ogwang Odyero, said he is concerned that the sub-county risks missing such an opportunity.
He promised to bring the matter to the attention of the Ministry of Health and President for consideration but, in the meantime, asked other sympathisers to help the community.