Come July, the modern Mulago Maternal and Neonatal hospital is expected to open its doors. The expectation is that it will reduce congestion at the national referral hospital, Mulago.
A recent guided tour by the contractor revealed workers are putting on the finishing touches; most of the painting and plumbing is finished. Most of the works in progress include fixing medical machines, beds, theatre lights, entry access control and basic office furniture here and there, writes JUSTUS LYATUU.
Tarek Eldakdoky, the technical engineer and site manager, explained that works stand at 99 per cent completion. What is remaining is for sub-contractors to finish their works and the facility will be ready for use.
“I can say the civil works are done; what we are doing is working on the systems like telephone, audio and video facilities and in two days’ time we will be through with fixing surgical works,” he said.
Located near Mulago Medical School, the maternal and neonatal hospital sits on 24,000 square metres of land.
In a country where 16 women die daily while giving birth, bringing the number to over 580 annually, a special facility to handle women health was always badly needed. What Uganda will soon have was made possible using a loan from the Islamic Development Bank.
Dr Evelyn Nabunya, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, explained that patients and mothers were many at Old Mulago Maternity wing, leaving little space for health workers to operate efficiently.
“If you look at the patients and the nurses that were taking care of them, you could see real congestion and this really stressed those doctors since they could not do their work properly,” she said.
This congestion, according to Dr Nabunya, sometimes led to neonatal, infant and maternal deaths, issues that had made the national referral hospital over the years.
“At Mulago hospital, about 100 babies are born in appalling conditions daily; these numbers are too big. Some babies are born tired, with defects, and even mothers are brought here when the child is in the tube, and there is need for a quick fix, but with overcrowding, it was almost impossible,” she said.
The new complex has been planned to handle high-risk antenatal cases, offer top-of-the-range post-natal services, modern operation procedures such as hysteroscopy and uro-gynaecology, especially obstetric fistula that involves pelvis reconstruction and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
As is now known, IVF involves extraction of female eggs and a sperm sample, and then manually combining them in a laboratory before implantation in a woman’s womb.
Eldakdoky spoke confidently of the 450 beds and 11 operating rooms, intensive care units (40 beds), recovery sections (25 beds), children’s nursery section (50 beds), oncology department (80 beds) and high-risk delivery sections (170 beds).
Others will include emergency departments, laboratories, a blood bank and morgue, radiology, examination and physiotherapy departments.
For long, IVF-assisted reproduction has been available in either just a few and very expensive private hospitals in Uganda or women who could afford had to travel abroad for this service. But the new facility will give a chance to others at fair prices.
Dr Santa Engol, a maternal and newborn health manager at Save the Children, observes that many public health facilities lack basic equipment for resuscitation of distressed newly born babies, resulting in a high number of newborn deaths.
She told The Observer that 27 out of every 1,000 babies die within their first month in Uganda.
“Mothers lose babies who are born tired or their mothers have complications and reach health centres and cannot breathe because the health facilities lack equipment to resuscitate them,” she said.
Under the Helping Baby Breathe initiative with support from Johnson & Johnson, Save the Children offers special care for babies born asphyxiated (unable to breathe), too small or sick in 32 health facilities in Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts.
What to expect
Nabunya explained that patients will pay for service since specialised treatment is very costly and sometimes involves bringing expatriate doctors from abroad.
The Mulago Maternal and Neonatal hospital will have different categories depending on the preference of patients; Silver will be for general patients, Gold –Very Important Persons and Platinum - Very Very Important Persons.
“The hospital is supposed to be self-sustaining; so, people will pay but under emergencies and special cases, non-paying patients will be admitted,” she said.
As contractors are putting finishing touches, doctors are also being trained on specialised treatment. Dr Nabunya announced that some medical officers have been sent to Egypt for advanced training in maternal and fetal medicine and gynaecology while others have been sent to India to specialise in reproductive medicine.
The government is also working on how the facility will be autonomous of Mulago national referral hospital, so as to assure efficiency. Administrators plan to recruit new staff.
“To increase effectiveness, we are planning to have our medical and support staff, currently we are working on the modalities of how that will work, that means better salaries to keep the staff there,” Dr Nabunya said.