We Are Charged shs5000 a km For Ambulance Services – Expectant Mothers
By Andrew Cohen Amvesi
Women in Maracha district, mainly expectant Mothers have come out to openly accuse their medical bosses of charging them for Ambulance services.
According to the women, each expectant mother is asked to pay shs5, 000 per a kilometer covered by the only Ambulance in the district.
The Ambulance that serves a total of eight Sub Counties in the district was donated by the Belgium government, three years ago with funds for its fuel.
But to Joyce Bako, 40, a mother of seven and a resident of Lamila village in Nyadri Sub County, the Ambulance services have never been free for the women in the village.
“I have been delivering my latest three children including the one on my back at Agii Health Center III in Nyadri Sub County, 5km away from my home but at a fee of shs5000 per a kilometer covered by the district Ambulance,” Bako narrated in an interview on Friday.
Bako said it has even become hard for mothers, who can’t afford the money to pay for the Ambulance services.
She noted that such mothers, in most cases, end up improvising their own means which at times, forces them to deliver or die on the way before reaching a health facility.
“It has not been easy for us to make use of the district Ambulance, a reason some of the expectant women, who can’t afford the money resort to using bicycle or motorcycle Boda Bodas with others zeroing on locally made stretchers for carrying their colleagues to the hospital,” said Christine Ayikoru, a mother of four and a resident of the same village.
Meanwhile Scola Taburu, a resident of Ambekua village, Oluffe Sub County also in Maracha district urged government to come to their aide by reinforcing the only Ambulance in the district by buying more to reduce cases of maternal death in the district.
Reports from Maracha district health office indicate that from July this year, a total of five expectant mothers have died due to various delivery complications, an average of one death per month.
Sunday Cadribo, the acting Maracha district health officer (DHO) attributed the recent maternal death cases to the limited ambulance services in the district.
He said the district Ambulance is only meant for referrals from lower health units to Maracha main hospital but not for home rescue services as many expected.
“It is the duty of the people from a particular home to take their expecting mothers to the nearest health unit but not us. What we consider to be free service by our Ambulance is the referrals from lower health units to the main hospital,” Cadribo said.
On the alleged Ambulance fares, Cadribo said he can’t rule out the fact that some drivers and nurses may take advantage to charge patients for that purpose, yet the Ambulance services are meant to be free for all, so long as it is a referral case.
He, however, pledged to follow up the concerns with the Ambulance management committee members for possible action.
Similarly, Laurence Adiga, the Maracha district Chairperson said he has been receiving complaints from locals especially during campaigns that they are being charged for Ambulance services in the district.
He in the same way, vowed to investigate the matter with the aim of punishing those found to be behind the move.
In a related incident, Medics at Tara health center III in Tara Sub County, Mracha district recently came under immense pressure following reports of illegal extra charges they levy on expectant mothers.
This is after it emerged that a mother, who seeks to deliver at the government facility is charged shs1, 000 for paraffin and another extra shs2, 000 for a delivery tapeline (carpet).
The accusations came to light during a recent health meeting at the health Center.
Jesca Nyakuru, one of the affected women said expectant mothers, who fail to raise the money as demanded are normally detained at the health center together with their babies until they foot the bills.
“I have delivered here twice and my experience is that once you fail to raise the shs3, 000 in total, you are not discharged until the money is paid fully,” said Nyakuru.
But Patrick Efitre, the health center deputy in charge defended their action, attributing it to lack of power at the facility.
“We have no power here at all. The only solar panels we had some years back got spoilt and to date, they have not been repaired,” Efitre said.
He explained that it is because of the problem that they resorted to charging mothers to facilitate their delivery.
Biajo Abadrole, the Tara Sub County Chairman said the concern was earlier raised to officials at the district, who have pledged to rehabilitate the health center in the near future.
He, however, urged mothers to continue paying the money as demanded until the district intervenes.
Meanwhile George Lagu Atibuni, the Maracha DISO, who doubles as the Acting RDC expressed ignorance over the charges and the power blackout at the health center.
“I have got the concern for the first time and I promise to take it to relevant authorities for further discussions,” Atibuni pledged.
When contacted on phone, Ronald Ociatre, the then Maracha district health officer (DHO) said he was equally not aware of the charges.
The reproductive maternal neonatal, child and adolescent health report of Maracha district with focus on maternal health indicates that at least 12 women died during labor in 2012/13 financial year, 9 in 2013/14, 7 in 2014/15, 2 in 2015/16 and later, the number rose to 5 in this starting 2016/17 financial year.