Residents in Kasese District have appealed to Parliament to intervene in the fate of Kilembe Mines Hospital, whose structures were destroyed by the May 2020 floods after River Nyamwamba burst her banks.
The distraught residents lodged their appeal to the Committee on Health on Wednesday, 26 January 2023 during the committee’s oversight visit to the rundown hospital.
“We cannot put the lives of our people at risk like our mothers who used to come to deliver from Kilembe. I request that you stand with us, Kasese leaders, to ensure that the image of government is protected by having this hospital functional,” said Eliphaz Muhindi, the LCV Chairperson LCV, Kasese District.
The locals are aggrieved that after the floods, the Ministry of Health which initially supplied the hospital with essential medicines withdrew support and only maintained funds for administration.
“You have seen the topography. People come from far and so when you cut off medicines, you declare death. The government is revamping other services after the floods – I hear they are looking for an investor to restore mining. Let them consider the hospital too,” said Hon. Florence Kabugho, the Kasese District Woman MP.
Currently, only a small unit of the former hospital is hosted in a neighbouring trading centre offering limited services.
The residents said their right to health has been denied as the hospital also served people from Busongora North with its 13 sub-counties and Busongora South with 10 sub-counties.
MPs learnt that the Kasese Catholic Diocese, before the flood, held a mandate of administration and resource mobilisation for the hospital.
However, on the expiry of their partnership, the diocese withdrew its support and also took away some of the equipment, which created more chaos with angry residents threatening to burn the properties of the diocese and the office of the chief administrative officer (CAO).
“People ended up being violent. The people of Kasese have a thinking that government does not love them and that is why it is denying them medicines. They have become desperate,” said Hon. Ferigo Kambale (NRM, Kasese Municipality).
The CAO, Elias Byamungu, said that he was hesitant to recommend the construction of a hospital in the valley because of the high risk of flooding which would destroy the buildings.
In its interaction with the Kasese diocese, the committee learnt that whereas the diocese together with stakeholders of the hospital had initially prepared a list of items to hand over, the Ministry of Health revised the list and directed on the items to be handed over.
“I wrote to the Ministry of Health. I have gone through all steps but when the Director General says to send this much back to Kilembe Hospital, for me, I cannot do the opposite. If I am directed by the Ministry of Health, I will do that; I am not here to fight the government,” said Rt Rev. Francis Aquirinus Kibira, the Bishop of Kasese Diocese.
The furious prelate narrated to the committee the church’s contribution to the hospital since they took over its management in 1995 and its response towards the floods.
Rt Rev. Francis Aquirinus Kibira (C) with MPs and the district leadership
The committee promised to summon Ministry of Health officials over the controversies, with a pledge to push for the reactivation of the supply of essential medicines and lobbying for a new hospital.
“As the health committee, we shall push the ministry to reactivate the credit line for medicines since Kilembe Mines Ltd cannot sustain the facility. Where do we expect the people to go?” asked Hon. Hope Nakazibwe (NRM, Mubende District Woman MP).
Namayingo District Woman MP, Margaret Makhoha, criticised the decision by the health ministry to withdraw the supply of medicines without providing the population with an alternative.
“Such a decision was deadly, the technical people needed to have come on the ground first and consult before making such an inhuman decision,” Makhoha said.
The committee’s Deputy Chairperson, Hon. Yoweri Ssebikaali, reiterated the need for continuity of services. “If the government is to construct a new hospital, then there is no need of taking away the services. When the hospital is done then shift the services,” he said.
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