Health officials at Muko Health Centre IV in Rubanda district, western Uganda are struggling to provide adequate services for pregnant women due to failure to access basic protective gear such as gloves, water and inadequate space in the maternity ward. The health admits more than 20 expectant mothers on a daily.
Public health officials are afraid that the lack of these necessities could fuel an increase in the maternal mortality in Uganda and play into failure to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of a global MMR of fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.
The health facility serves mothers from Ruhija, Ikumba, Muko and Bufundi sub-counties and Murore, Kashasha, Kacherere and Habuhutu town councils. However, the maternity ward at the facility can only accommodate six beds.
The lack of gloves, polythene bags and Misoprostol drug that is used to treat postpartum bleeding due to poor contraction of the uterus at the facility, forces mothers to use their money to buy from private drug shops.
National Water and Sewerage Corporation, the national water utility, only supplies water to the facility three days a week. As a result, pregnant women and new mothers and their attendants have to trek to the nearby swamp to fetch water.
Angella Mpiriirwe, a mother from Ruhija sub-county who our reporter found at the facility pending labour, said that upon her arrival last weekend, she realized how the doctor was struggling to perform a cesarean section during night hours without surgical gloves and Misoprostol.
She says that due to lack of transport because of the nighttime curfew, the doctor was forced to use his airtime to secure the essentials items needed at the facility. Mpiriirwe says that she also spent the night on verandah due to lack of space in the maternity ward.
Annet Tumushabe and Betty Kihembo from Kyenyi and Kacherere parishes in Muko sub-county respectively were also at the facility waiting for labour. The two told URN that they had already been informed to prepare the money to buy the essentials needed for labour.
They also say that sleeping on the verandah without a mattress stresses them and causes them pain in the ribs. They also narrate how they walk for about two kilometers to fetch water in the swamp because of the unreliable supply at the facility.
Sylvia Kyomugisha, the Senior Nursing Officer at Muko Health Center, says that on average they deliver between 80 and 112 mothers monthly both through normal and caesarian section.
Kyimugisha says that the absence of space in the maternity ward forces mothers to sleep on the floor in the Out Patient Department (OPD) during the night and spend the daytime in the compound. Kyomugisha also says that the six beds in the maternity ward are only given to mothers who have undergone cesarean section.
Godfrey Bampabwiire, the in-charge of Muko Health Center IV, says that mother struggle to purchase gloves, whose price has increased from Shillings 12,000 to around Shillings 25,000. He also says that there is a time when the facility spends a full week without water, which forces mothers and other patients to trek to swamps for water.
Abdon Birungi, the Rubanda District Health Officer says that National Medical Stores (NMS) has not supplied surgical gloves in the entire district for the last three months. He, however, says that they hope the challenges will end when the health ministry upgrades the facility to a district hospital in the 2022-2023 financial year.