A string of commonplace petty crimes in public hospitals are committed by patient attendants, Dr Charles Ayume, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health has said and called for law banning patient care givers from hospitals.
“Most crimes committed in hospitals such as stealing drugs, babies and machines are not committed by health workers, but by idlers at hospitals, patient attendants or people who pretend to be care-takers. So we want to reduce human traffic in hospitals,” he said.
“You can’t have more than 2,000 people in one space and you don’t get crimes. When I used to work at Mulago Hospital during the night shift, most car lights and side mirrors were stolen,” Ayume said.
“In the TB ward, where patient traffic was less, it was common to find car washers in the Katanga area (near the hospital), sleeping in the ward at night and leave early morning for work. This put their life at risk of getting TB…,” he added.
Ayume said the number of patient attendants at Mulago hospital and other public health facilities is too big. It leads to a spike in crimes committed in hospitals and the spread of chronic infections that may be avoidable, he said.
“Mulago National Referral hospital has about 900 workers, if 600 of them report on duty daily, the place will be crowded yet many people there are patient attendants, dealers in photocopy, merchandise and food. So we need to reduce human traffic in public hospitals to stop crime,” he said.
“If you go to Mulago, you find the compound, hospital wards, corridors full, occupied by attendants yet most of these are criminals,” Ayume said last week during commemoration of the World Patient Safety Day (September 18) in partnership with Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD). The day prioritizes safety in health facilities.
He said modern hospitals need space and time for health workers to attend to patients but not attendants occupying all the space around the patients. Some attendants also come with diseases and contaminate patients.
Ayume said most attendants use the hospitals’ big parking space leaving no space for health workers.
“The attendants also over-utilize hospital water, toilets and electricity while charging phones, which shoots up hospital bills…” he said.
Ayume is engaging different councils on how to eliminate ethical issues.
“We have four councils that regulate the profession of health workers and these include the Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Council, Uganda Medical Association, Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda. We all receive health related complaints,” he said.
Dr Katumba Sentongo, the registrar Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Council, advised people to have only two attendants at the hospital to avoid piling pressure on hospital utilities and infections.
“The nurses are enough to take care of patients and sometimes attendants mislead patients into taking herbal drugs that put patients’ lives in dangers,” he said.
It’s estimated that safety of patients is closely related to the safety of health workers. This has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives.