Gulu Hospital seeks for 500m budget for orthopedic workshop

Opiyo Felix with Amputated arm in Lacor Hospital

Opiyo Felix whose arm was amputated from Lacor hospital after   the Apaa land violence in Amuru district. People like him would usually be able to get an artificial limb from  the Gulu Referral Hospital orthopedic department. But with the hospital out of money people like  him  may increasingly find it difficult to get the help they need.

Gulu Referral Hospital is seeking for 500 million shillings for its orthopedic department.

The department was established in 1996 to make artificial limps for victims of landmines during the more than two-decade long conflict in northern Uganda.

Most of the money used to run the department was from donors. But money from donors has dwindled.

“At the height of the LRA insurgency, the donor fund was 90 percent compared to 10 percent the government gives for the orthopedic department,’’ said David Muzira, Principal Orthopedic Technologist at Gulu hospital.

Gulu Referral Hospital acts as a referral health facility for northern Uganda. In the case of the orthopedic department, some of its patients come from as far as South Sudan.

But as donor money, which has for long funded the orthopedic department, dries up, the department finds itself in a difficult spot.

‘‘As the region regained peace, the donor also started downsizing their support to 50 percent,” said David Muzira.

Muzira said his department has mainly been relying on funding from the Italian NGO, AVSI.

This financial year, according to him, the department received Shs 74 million for operations from AVSI. But he says this money is unable to help in repairs and making of new artificial limbs.

Without sufficient funding from donors, the orthopedic department has had to rely on the Shs 1 billion Gulu hospital received annually from the government.

“AVSI is just doing a modest support for these people who survived land mine, but there are many people who are being involved in motor accidents who end up with amputated limbs, these people are categories not catered for by AVSI. It should have been by the government,” said Mbazira.

Mr Muzira said due to the limited funding, they have been able to place few orders for materials for making limbs since they can no longer afford based on the overwhelming demand from patients.

Dr Nathan Onyachi, the Gulu Hospital Director in an interview said the challenges they face arises from the strict guidelines by National Medical Store (NMS) not to include the budget of the orthopedic department for drug supplies.

“NMS is the custodian of the hospital’s money for drugs and any request we make for the materials for artificial limbs, they tell us that it is too expensive to buy them,’’ said Dr Onyachi.

‘‘They always tell us to choose whether the money is used for material for artificial limbs and leave hundreds of children to suffer as a result of lack of drugs like for malarial drugs,” Onyachi addedi.

He appealed to government and well-wishers to support the hospital’s orthopedic department.
“We know we still have a lot of people whose limbs have been amputated and are not able to engage in productive ventures like farming. We want the budget to be increased for the orthopedic department so that such people are helped,” he said.

By Denis Otim