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Idle dispensaries host bats as patients’ pain persists

By Ignatius Odanga | Nov 25th 2019 | 3 min read
The Sh4 million Igula Dispensary in Butula that is complete, but is yet to begin operations. [Ignatius Odanga, Standard]

The Busia County Government is on the spot for failing to put into use several dispensaries despite spending millions of shillings to build them.

There are nearly 20 dispensaries that have been completed, but are yet to be open to the public.

This has resulted in patients trekking for up to seven kilometres to access medical and maternal health care in health centres or sub-county hospitals.

There are at least 62 dispensaries spread across the seven constituencies of Nambale, Butula, Budalang’i, Funyula, Matayos, Teso South and Teso North.

In 2013, after taking oath of office, Governor Sospeter Ojaamong in his maiden speech said health was one of the sectors that needed to be prioritised.

Reduce pressure

Mr Ojaamong’s administration crafted several strategies to bring health care closer to the people. These included plans to operationalise dispensaries built by the defunct local authorities and equip them with drugs and medical equipment.

The governor also pledged to build new dispensaries to reduce the pressure on health centres, sub-county hospitals and county referral hospitals.

But Ojaamong’s vision is yet to be realised. Some of the completed dispensaries that are still lying idle are Kapina, Bulwani, Mukhobola, Imanga, Buyofu and Bulanda.

Others are Akolong’, Buyosi, Okwata, Segero, Akobwait, Aturet, Burumba, Bukadanyi, Luliba Bi, Benga, Igula and Nyalwanda.

Those that are operational have three nurses, or less, and are open between Monday and Friday from 8am to 5pm.

Chief Officer for Health and Sanitation Isaac Omeri said his department was working with the county assembly to ensure money was allocated to open the dispensaries.

“Our main objective is to ensure we provide better and quality medical services to the people near their homes. That is why we are doing all we can together with ward representatives to operationalise the completed dispensaries,” said Dr Omeri.

In Igula, construction of a dispensary started in 2003 and although it was completed, residents have not benefited from the facility that is now home to bats.

End of struggle

Patients have no option but to seek assistance in alternative health facilities in Ikonzo, Burinda or Khunyangu Sub-county Hospital. 

“You have to walk for almost one hour to reach one of the three facilities. If the county opened the dispensary, that would mark the end of our struggle to seek medication,” said Stephen Washika, a resident.

Marachi Central ward representative Patrick Obuya said the county had allocated Sh500,000 in the 2019-2020 budget to aid in opening Igula dispensary to the public.

Over in Teso South, Okwata dispensary was also built by the defunct local authority but it now lies idle.

In April, residents held street demos to protest its delayed commissioning. It has been seven months and they are still waiting.

John Ekombe, a resident, said the nearest facility where they can seek medical attention is Lukolis health centre situated about six kilometres away.

“All the county did after the demonstrations was to clear bushes. We are still waiting for the facility to be opened,” said Mr Ekombe.

Amukura West MCA Abiud Ochilangole said operations at the dispensary will start this financial year.

“We have set aside Sh2.3 million to renovate the health centre, build a fence and buy medical equipment,” said Mr Ochilangole.

In 2001, residents of Luliba in Matayos constituency mooted an idea to construct a dispensary close to their homes after tiring of walking seven kilometres to Matayos health centre.

The foundation was laid and in 2007, a former MP gave the community money that was used to build a nurse’s house.

The county drilled a borehole and carried out electrical wiring before the project stalled.

Matayos South MCA Linus Asiba said Sh1.5 million has been set aside in the budget to help renovate the facility before health officials can start work.

A community-based organisation has been meeting with residents to sensitise them on the need to participate in the budget-making process, which will enable them push the county to implement what is captured in the County Integrated Development Plan.

“There is no value for money. Residents are not benefiting from the projects despite the fact that the county spent millions to put them up but operationalisation has not been effected,” said Community Empowerment and Development Centre Executive Director Francis Namuju.

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