President Museveni used a rare surprise visit to Mulago national referral hospital on Tuesday afternoon, to see for himself what the hospital is really like and get firsthand accounts of patients’ experiences.
His unannounced visit, according to eyewitnesses, stirred panic among the hospital leadership, who had no chance to dust up the wards.
“We were so shocked to see the president at lunch time moving quietly around the hospital wards without any guidance from medical officers from the administration block. We didn’t even see his security guards before to sense that he was coming,” a source said.
“Many medical officers who were simply seated down without attending to patients panicked, ran up and down after seeing the president in their wards and corridors,” the source added.
According to hospital staff interviewed, the top-tier management was caught completely unawares. Management is used to official notification of a presidential visit, which didn’t happen this time round.
“Previously, we could know that he is coming and we do general cleaning in the hospital, organize patients but this time, he caught us unaware and we were told that his security officers were deployed in civilian clothes and couldn’t be easily identified,” a source said. The president this time round was able to see and smell the filth at the hospital directly.
He also saw patients lodged on the floors in the wards, corridors and stairs. According to our source, when the patients saw the president, they bared their hearts. They told him about the lack of drugs, congestion and very little care from the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
The president reportedly spent more time in the labour wards, especially 5B, emergency wards on 2B, theatres and some parts of the renovation site. The doctors, sources said, later attempted to offer some assistance to the president but he reportedly told them he was touring the hospital and visiting patients.
In a Thursday interview, Lindah Nabusayi, the presidential press secretary, said of the president’s visit: “It was a private visit and he [president] wanted to see what was going on with patients in public hospitals,” she said.
Asuman Lukwago, the permanent secretary ministry of Health, said Mulago is under rehabilitation and the president can visit anytime to get firsthand updates on the progress.
“He doesn’t need to inform us when he is coming to visit the hospital because it is his duty to check on the progress of the rehabilitation. People should be alert when they are doing their work and know that they are supervised. I was impressed by his visit without informing us in advance,” he said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, Health minister Elioda Tumwesigye also visited the hospital unannounced and the doctors and nurses spent much of the night following him around as he toured every corner of the hospital.
When this writer visited the hospital yesterday, the administration block had been transferred from lower (New) Mulago to upper (Old) Mulago to speed up the ongoing renovations. However, no patients had been moved from lower Mulago to upper Mulago to allow room for renovations as Lukwago had announced last week.