By Andrew Cohen Amvesi
ARUA. The members of Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Central on Monday gave hard time to Arua regional referral hospital bosses to explain the circumstances under which a two-year-old child died from the government facility on May 31, 2022.
Aron Nabil died at the hospital after a nurse demanded a bribe before carrying out an operation. Paul Wamala, a nurse attached to the hospital theatre allegedly solicited a Shs210,000 bribe.
According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He, however, returned shortly to the relatives asking for additional Shs180,000 from the relatives.
Reports indicate that Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell in Bazar ward, central division, and a relative of the child said although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded part of the money, Shs200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.
Although the operation was later carried out after 8 hours of delay, the child, however, died later. The relatives attribute the death to the delay to attend to the child.
The issue later attracted the attention of the PAC Central members who stormed the hospital on Monday.
The team led by the Vice Chairperson PAC Central, Asuman Basalirwa who also doubles as the Bugiri Municipality MP almost spent the whole day interfacing with the hospital administrators headed by Dr. Philbert Nyeko, the Arua regional referral hospital director.
“We will interact with you on what we have gathered from the community. We have interacted with the community, and we have feedback. The issue to do with extortion; director; your staff are extorting money from the public for services that are supposed to be free,” Basalirwa added.
“The issue of negligence and unprofessionalism will also be our area of interest and particularly; director, that incident which was everywhere in the media where a baby died because the parents didn’t have money for your staff. We want to find out how far you have gone in addressing that situation because it is a matter which has been in the public domain,” Basalirwa said.
In response, Nyeko admitted that there was extortion in the issue of the child which unfortunately, led to his death.
“On this issue of the child I want to admit, there was extortion and I think there is some pieces of evidence here and there. I shall also admit here that, that day I was not there but when I came naturally, I had to ask, give me information and I didn’t hide it to my Honorable MP when he asked, I said no I was not there, let me ask because so and so was on the ground” Nyeko said.
“The information I have given is out of the summary from the seven people who were involved in this, so there is a file and these seven people have been sanctioned,” Nyeko said.
But trouble started when Nyeko said money was brought to the theatre as medics were already operating the child.
“When doctors were busy, dressed in their attires and operating the child, somebody came running and knocked at the theatre door, saying money is here for you……,” before Nyeko could end the statement, Hon. Jackson Lee Atima, the Arua Central MP, a member of the committee also the area MP interjected, saying Nyeko sounds like he is defending the wrong deeds of his staff members.
“When Dr. Nyeko now goes ahead to say there was pressure from outside, there was a knock by the relatives of this family to the theatre door. Now doctors are already handling a situation in the theatre, why will I go and knock and want to force money. Which is not the case! Chair and members, this money was given in intervals. If money was given and received in intervals, how would the director go ahead and lie to this committee that there was pressure from the relatives to give money to the staff of the theatre?” Atima asked.
Atima later said by the virtue of his position as the director of Arua hospital, Nyeko should have also recorded a statement at police in regard to the unfortunate incident.
Besides the death of the child, the PAC members also looked into the issue of staffing, patient management, bed capacity, status and management of drugs and medical stores, laboratories, basic medical equipment, hospital buildings, the housing conditions of the staff, hospital land management and the hospital’s strategic plan among other concerns.
The meeting ended with a guided one-hour tour around the hospital.