Early this week, reports emerged how at least 20 expectant mothers had died of delivery complications one of whom died while being pushed on a wheel barrow from Kokeris village to Matany after the only ambulance which could deliver them to the missionary hospital from health centers was attached by a court bailiff to recover 35 million from Matany Missionary Hospital. The ambulance has since been placed on advert in the newspapers seeking buyers.
Very recent reports now indicate how the president had complained to acting Chief Justice Steven Kavuma about the role Judiciary played in worsening the situation. He further reportedly ordered the Napak RDC Mr. Beku Ddudu on phone to urgently investigate the matter.
The Minister for Karamoja Affairs, First Lady Janet Museveni is also reported to have raised concerns about how the Magistrate handled the matter.
In response to this, the disgruntled mothers of Napak had organized to hold a peaceful demonstration at Moroto Chief Magistrate Court over the judgement and how the whole issue was handled. It took the intervention of the Mt. Moroto regional police commander to block the protest.
The whole saga stems from a complaint filed at Moroto Chief Magistrates in which a student was complaining of wrongful dismissal from Matany School of Nursing which forms the hospital’s training wing after being allegedly found stealing hospital drugs. The court was to award damages if it established that the dismissal was not in order.
As it were, the Chief Magistrate of Moroto, His Worship Moses Mutazindwa ruled that the student had been wrongfully dismissed and proceeded to award the damages to a tune of 35 million shillings. Unless an appeal was filed in time, Matany Missionary Hospital was to pay the student this sum which it failed to do.
Consequently, a court bailiff was brought on board to recover the money for the student which resulted into the attachment of the hospital ambulance which had actually been donated to the hospital by an NGO.
Fast forward, within a matter of 10 days, the beneficiaries of the ambulance services were already paying with their lives. At least 20 women died with labour complications which would have been attended to at the hospital.
I find several issues here to be very disturbing.
Why didn’t the hospital appeal against this ruling? If it is true that the student was caught stealing drugs, they should have pursued the matter through legal means and probably either win the case or at least have the award revised downwards substantially. Or was it a case of victimization against the student prompting them not to appeal? Why should an LC 5 of Napak, Mr. Joseph Lomonyang lament and fault a court ruling and proceed to ask area MPs to “follow up the matter” instead of following the due process of the law which is filling an appeal?
Secondly is whether this was the right way to execute the order. Why attach an ambulance when the hospital has a bus and a host of other property? Why follow the ambulance to Kampala where it had gone to pick blood for patients then impound it from there consequently creating a crisis of denying 400 patients blood transfusion which they urgently needed?
I know the student should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of her case but at what cost? These are very emotional issues.
What message does this send to hospital administrators who catch their staff or students stealing drugs?
Today, at least 16 mothers die daily in Uganda from delivery complications. The fight against maternal mortality needs all our concerted efforts.
Members of the public need to appreciate the importance of following through with due judicial process. Judiciary is independent and if anyone is dissatisfied with it’s decisions, they have a right to appeal in a higher court for redress.
Judiciary should also be sensitive to some of the community realities and of course, by all means ensure justice prevails without necessarily compounding problems.
A version of this piece was published in the New Vision Newspaper and can be viewed here: We need an explanation over attached ambulance and the Daily Monitor Newspaper which can be viewed here: Confiscating a hospital ambulance was wrong. Same link also available on AllAfrica.com site and can be viewed here
Read more on this topic here: 20 pregnant mothers die as ambulance is confiscated