Protest in Zombo over transfer  of  government Ambulance to a private health facility

A section of youth activists and local leaders in Zombo  are bitterly protesting the  relocation of  a government  Ambulance  to a private health facility by some district officials.

This Publication understands that the Ambulance was transferred from Paidha Health Center III to Nyapea Hospital,  which is a Catholic founded Institution months ago.

The Ministry of Health early this year donated a class B Toyota Land Cruiser Ambulance, registered as UG 8154 M, to the district under emergency medical services. This modern ambulance is poised to alleviate some of the referral challenges faced by the community, with one unit stationed at Paidha Health Center III, serving Okoro constituency, and another expected for Ora Constituency.

Sam Rwothomio, a youth activist and C.E.O  of Zombo Mwa Forum,  blamed the district for their failure to inform the public formally about the transfer  of the Ambulance to a private facility raising feelings of  suspicion amongst members of the public. He also   accused the leaders of levying exorbitant fees on locals seeking services of  the Ambulance yet it should be free of charge.

” We are demanding that the Ambulance be brought back to Paidha health center III , we have also learnt that people are being charged for the services of the Ambulance yet it’s free of charge. The Ambulance was officially launched at Paidha health center III at Paidha Town Council, it was a shocking news to us three weeks ago that the Ambulance was taken from Paidha health center III without prior notice, we don’t know the reason why this Ambulance was taken ”  Rwothomio explained to Journalists in a press conference on July 6, 2024.

Robert Jakony, The National Resistance Movement ( NRM)  Party Flag bearer for Paidha Town Council in  2021-2026 who double as the Chairperson Paidha Black Angels FC, expressed shock over the  information regarding the Ambulance transfer to a private health facility. 

He rallied all members of the Public to rise up and peacefully demand for the transfer of the Ambulance from a Private health facility to Paidha health center III which is under  government of Uganda.

A section of youth activists and leaders in Zombo addresses a press conference in Paidha Town Council on July 6, 2024, demanding that the Ambulance be transferred back to Paidha health center III . photo/mike Rwothomio

” The Ambulance has been given by the government of Uganda under health docket to Okoro constituency, the district resolution is very clear , the Ambulance should be attached to Paidha health center III which is located in Paidha Town Council.Three weeks ago we were touched upon getting information that the Ambulance has been  transferred to a private health facility that is Nyapea Hospital, so we are calling upon each and everyone to come forward , there is no way we can be convinced that there  is need for the Ambulance to be in Nyapea Hospital, we are calling upon everyone, let’s go and bring back the Ambulance to Paidha health center III” Jakony told Journalists in a press conference at Paidha Town Council 

Simmilarly, Sadiki Onencan, The Chairperson Social services Committee Zombo District local government and Male  district councillor for Paidha Town Council blamed the district top leadership for undermining council adding that the decision was taken without council’s approval.

” We need to follow procedures when doing some of the things , I feel like really resigning from the council because if the council resolution is not being followed , it is as good as useless to be in that council”  Sadiki explained and added that ”  If any person think we are political, that person must be having a myopic mind, this thing has nothing to do with politics , it’s about service provision to the community, to the public , to Ugandans”

A section of youth activists on July 6, 2024, display placards with strong messages to the concerned leaders about the transfer of a recently donated Class B Ambulance from Paidha health center III to Nyapea Hospital (private health facility)

Princess Kristober, The female district youth councillor said ” the Dr is a technical person , he knows what to do , let him bring back the Ambulance to Paidha where it was commissioned, So Dr let’s respect that” 

The LCIII chairperson of Paidha Town Council had Initially raised concern about the disappearance of the Ambulance at the council sitting for Paidha Town Council recently, blaming the district health officer Dr Mark Bramali for his ” incompetency since he has failed to inform the town council leadership formally on the reason why the Ambulance was transferred to Nyapea hospital which is a Private health facility” 

Onega added that ” I saw the Ambulance which was commissioned at Paidha health center III instead in Nyapea Hospital, the letter from the ministry of health was clear that the Ambulance should be at Paidha health center III, the District relocated the Ambulance without our notice , what kind of leadership is this, we are saying the Ambulance should be brought back to Paidha health center III as it serves the entire district, we are saying the Ambulance doesn’t belong to Paidha alone but should be stationed at Paidha health center III as earlier indicated” 

During the Commissioning of the Ambulance in February this year at Paidha health center III, Dr Mark Bramali, the District health Officer stated that the Ambulance will be stationed at Paidha health center III to serve the Okoro County  and the entire district as it awaits the one for Ora County.

“Interms of the location of the Ambulance, the letter before you states categorically clear that this Ambulance is for Okoro County and the Parmanent secretary ministry of health has directed that the Ambulance be stationed at Paidha health center III unless any other changes will take place , that is why we are  doing the Commissioning here today and the Ambulance will remain here, you will move with it and park it here” Bramali said during the Commissioning of the Ambulance.

He added ” and the boundary of Okoro county you know it very well but for the purpose of managing the district , now that it’s the only one available, we shouldn’t say that it should not cross to other parts of the District as we await the one for Ora County”

Zombo District, with a population of over 290,000  faces significant challenges related to its referral system, particularly impacting expectant mothers and individuals with other medical complications. The lack of standard ambulances has often left patients stranded, with some resorting to delivering on the way to referral facilities.

District responds

The District health Officer Dr Mark Bramali in an interview denied reports of transfer of Ambulance to Nyapea Hospital informally saying a letter of notification was written and copied to the district LCV chairperson, Resident District Commissioner and administration of Paidha town council where the Ambulance was stationed.

” Since we have gotten one Ambulance and still waiting for another one, stationing the one Ambulance per now in Paidha health center III would make it very difficult to be accessed at the extreme end of Ora County technically, that is what I look at . I don’t want to put myself into politics because the guidelines clearly states that the interim overall responsibility of the Ambulance is in the hands of the accounting officer with guidance from the district health officer. For me im talking on the technical aspect on how we can make rational use of that Ambulance” Bramali said 

Earlier , the activists had accused the district leaders of levying exorbitant fees on the Ambulance that should be free of charge. 

Bramali in response to the allegations said  shillings 30,000 charge is being levied  since  the budget at the moment is not sufficient for the Ambulance  management.

” At the moment they are giving us quarterly Uganda shillings  2 million .Looking at our emergency turn over , we need worth 7 million every quarter to make that Ambulance be running on the road leaving us with a deficit of 5 million that is why we are still asking for 30,000 shillings to add on the ambulance that is 6litre of fuel” 

Whilst on a local radio , responding to the circumstances sorounding the transfer of the Ambulance to Nyapea Hospital, the district LCV chairperson James Oruna Oyullu  blamed some leaders for using the Ambulance transfer to gain  political Mileage and incite the public.

During the Ambulance commissioning in February this year, the District health Officer highlighted the importance of proper ambulance management, including training for staff to ensure efficient service delivery. He emphasized that these services would be provided free of charge, addressing a critical gap in healthcare accessibility.

Moreover, plans are underway to repair the old ambulance to further bolster the district’s referral capabilities. With the imminent arrival of the second ambulance for Ora Constituency, Zombo District is poised to witness improvements in its healthcare infrastructure, benefiting its nine health centre IIIs, eight health centre IIs, and Nyapea General Hospital.

However, challenges persist, especially along the Uganda-DR Congo border, where health facilities face overwhelming demand from neighbouring regions. Nevertheless, the donation of modern ambulances marks a significant step towards addressing these healthcare disparities and ensuring timely access to critical medical services for all residents of Zombo District.