63-year-old Margaret Iloku has finally returned home to join her family after completing two weeks of hard labour weeding the gardens belonging to a nurse at Princess Diana health centre IV.
Iloku was forced into the gardens after failing to fully clear the medical bills of her expectant daughter-in-law Grace Acen. About two weeks ago, Iloku brought Acen to the facility without any money, expecting free services at the government health centre.
However, the attendant and her patient were to quickly learn that the health facility charges inpatients Shs 3,000 for a medical records file, and another Shs 20,000 for detergents like Jik, powder soap, and toilet paper. Also, in most cases, patient attendants are sent out to buy health commodities and drugs, including gloves, needed for the treatment of their patients.
For mothers who undergo cesarean section at the facility, most of the drugs for relieving pain and facilitating recovery of the patient are bought from pharmacies and clinics surrounding the facility. The health centre demanded Shs 300,000 cash for Acen to undergo caesarean section, but Iloku could only manage to raise Shs 130,000 from wellwishers. She was forced to weed the groundnut garden of one of the nurses to offset the Shs 170,000 medical bills balance.
Iloku’s story – which nearly mirrors the current economic and health situation for many, especially in rural areas, went viral and even attracted the attention of the speaker of parliament, Anita Among, who ordered the line minister to inquire and report back about the issue to the house today Thursday. Ministry of Health spokesman, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, confirmed to the reporter in a text that ministry officials were on the ground to establish facts.
Soroti resident city commissioner, Peter Pex Paak, has now given the police one week to investigate and bring to book those involved in the alleged extortion of patients at Princess Diana health centre IV.
Paak, who has been holding crisis meetings with different stakeholders at the facility said that management at the facility has been charging patients Shs 3,000 for a file that costs Shs 700 on the open market.
He adds that other allegations will be investigated since there is no proof from the media reports to pin any particular staff. Paak told our reporter that he has directed the officer in charge of criminal investigations in Soroti East Division to open a general inquiry file to bring the matter to book.
According to Paak, preliminary findings indicate that the facility has been running without medical supplies for more than a month. He notes that the report from the facility management shows that National Medical Stores (NMS) last delivered medical supplies on March 17, 2023.
Meanwhile, our reporter visited the family to deliver some assistance offered by a good Samaritan who was touched by the condition of the mother and her family. Iloku, who was found looking for greens for the family’s supper, said that she was stuck with the baby and the mother since the boy was not immunized at the facility.
“I have been considering going for lejaleja (garden work for money) to be able to take the baby for immunization at Dakabela health centre, but I’m still feeling weak from the hospital’s work. Here, we survive on lejaleja, including my son and his wife,” she said.
URN has learnt that the Shs 130,000 cash she partly paid for the cesarean section was borrowed from the LC I chairperson in the area, Simon Peter Otelu. Otelu, who directed the reporter to Iloku’s home, said that he offered help to the family to save the situation.