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Unaccompanied Patients Overwhelm Gulu Hospital :: Uganda Radionetwork

Unaccompanied Patients Overwhelm Gulu Hospital

According to Tibemanya, four people succumbed to various illnesses at the hospital in 2018 without any of their relatives appearing by their sickbeds. Their remains were buried in Gulu Municipal Public Cemetery.
Rita Acayo on Her Bed At Gulu Hospital

Audio 1

Health Workers at Gulu Regional Referral hospital are struggling to feed more than 20 unaccompanied patients admitted there. Majority of the unaccompanied patients are in the mental health department while others are in the Medicine ward. 

20-year-old-Rita Acayo is among the many unaccompanied patients in the Medicine Ward. Acayo arrived at the Hospital on January 31st from Kitebi ward in Kampala with opportunistic infections. She was received at the hospital frail and limping with just a bag of changing clothes after six hours of bus travel. 


Acayo says she was traveling to Kitgum to trace the relatives of her parents in a village she can hardly name because she has never been there since she was born 20-years- ago. According to Acayo, her father, Fred Omara died before introducing her to his relatives 17-years- ago. 

But he had told her he hailed from Kitgum. As fate would have it, Acayo lost her mother before her dad passed on. She says the only memory she has of her mother is that she was buried in a village in Lira district.

Acayo knew her HIV status in September last year after several tests returned non-reactive. All the while, she was under the care of her step mother Christine Akello, who she accuses of betraying her late dad and banishing her from home in January this year.

"On January 30th, she [Akello] chased me from home saying I am a worthless infected woman she cannot take care of anymore. According to her, I must leave as my presence is threatening her relationship with her new husband" she narrated missing many words to catch her breath.

Travel To Gulu

Acayo sought protection at Katwe Police Station from where good Samaritans mobilized her transport fare to Kitgum district. And when sickness struck in Gulu during the journey, a boda boda operator dropped her at the main gate of Gulu Hospital where she was admitted. 

She has been started on anti-retroviral drugs and wants persons of goodwill to assist her find food and other basic needs. David Tibemanya, the Principal Administrator Gulu Regional Referral hospital, says many unaccompanied patients end up in the hospital at various stages of ailments with majority seeking treatment in the mental health unit and Medicine ward.


According to Tibemanya, four people succumbed to various illnesses at the hospital in 2018 without any of their relatives appearing by their sickbeds. Their remains were buried in Gulu Municipal Public Cemetery.

According to the Hospital Administrator, patients in the medical ward and the mental health unit form the most neglected ailments in the hospital. He told URN that the stigma associated with mental illness is to blame for the many number of patients abandoned in the unit.

Tibemanya says when such a patient come at Gulu Hospital they are often looked after by nurses on duty who on many occasions are already too busy with other patients.


Feeding Challenges

Juliet Cebet, the Senior Social Worker Gulu hospital, says the Hospital budget is adequate to cater unaccompanied patients who are steadily fed. She says money is allocated once in a while for such needy patients. 

When the money runs out, patients like Acayo are fed on the goodwill of other patients or their attendants. Since they don't have attendants for themselves to help in sanitary visits, it is a challenge when they soil their clothes and beds.



Chebet admits that the money allocated by government to take care for such patients takes a long time to get to procurement for them to receive good care and other basic necessities. 

Nurses Initiative

The plight of such patients has compelled nurses at the Hospital to initiate a support mobilization initiative at the Hospital. They work with their partners in the United Kingdom to solicit financial support for unaccompanied patients.

In 2016, the initiative supported 10 unaccompanied patients to find treatment at the hospital. It is through this initiative that caregivers are hired to attend to unaccompanied patients.


This year, the initiative is supporting 20 unaccompanied patients. TASO Gulu has also stopped assisting unaccompanied persons living with HIV, such as Acayo.


Michael Ochwo, the Manager TASO Gulu, says they were forced to cancel the support after donors stopped funding them. Ochwo says the number of Persons living with HIV seeking treatment unaccompanied remains high due to deep rooted stigma associated with the disease.


He says this explains why most patients take their drugs in secluded places from the rest of the family members. The HIV prevalence in Gulu district stands at 8.14 percent above the national average. 

Yoweri Idiba, the Gulu District Health Officer, says 26,579 people have been enrolled on Anti-retroviral treatment (ART) in Gulu district. Out of these, six out of ten are female while five are children and the rest males.


He says with such a high number of people on treatment, government should rethink the treatment of unaccompanied patients.