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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mulago Hospital

Today a group of six Drake students had the unique opportunity to visit Mulago Hospital. Located in Kampala, the hospital serves as the main government hospital in Uganda and is the largest hospital in East Africa. The hospital does not charge its patients any money for the services it provides, which can range from treatment for malaria to cesarean sections. The group was lead around by a tour guide and an ear, nose and throat doctor. Some of the notable destinations during the visit were a tour of a general ward and a private ward. A general ward consists of beds stacked next to each, often overflowing into the hallway, with some patients having to lie on mattresses on the floor.  Private rooms, on the other hand, are not as private as one would think and consist of a large room with curtains separating the patients. These rooms also boast a “private” bathroom while patients on the general ward have one large communal bathroom per wing. The tour continued with a viewing of the maternity ward. This ward was a true culture shock as mothers who had just given birth were crowded in one hallway outside sitting on the floor and benches while awaiting to be discharged; only mothers with extreme medical conditions were allowed beds after giving birth.  The group also visited the pediatric unit, which had similar conditions comparable to that of the general ward. Finally, the group was able to walk through the Cancer Institute. Patients were scattered throughout the Institute while the caregivers of the patients were forced to sit outside due to a lack of space. Overall, the experience was very eye-opening and far different than the conditions at Mukono Hospital, which is a much smaller health care center.  The overcrowding of the hospital and the general conditions were the most surprising part of the tour, and provided a stark contrast from health care provided in the United States.  After talking with the ear, nose, and throat doctor at the hospital, it was apparent that a lack of staff was the main problem at Mulago. For example, there are usually only two nurses for up to seventy patients. Furthermore, a career in health care at government run institutions are often not profitably enough to attract newly graduated medical students. In order for hospitals like Mulago to become more sustainable, the understaffing problem must be addressed to meet all the needs of the Uganda citizens.

 [The front entrance of the hospital]

 [The private ward-there were four patients in this room separated by the curtains pictured]

 [The patients laying out laundry; each patient must provide their own bedding while at the hospital]

[The general ward in the pediatric unit; the children had been moved temporarily to clean the ward]


  1. Hayley, I think this was such a cool experience you had the opportunity to see. I can't imagine seeing all of the people in such tight quarters, especially compared to the usually very spacious and private hospitals in the United States. I find it interesting that more doctors do not want to work at the government sponsored hospitals, especially because in the US I feel like there are a large number of doctors and people that want to be doctors. If the government is able to provide incentives to attract doctors to work at these government run hospitals, I think there would be a larger pool of doctors to hire.

    1. Morgan, I definitely agree that the government needs to provide doctors, nurses, and other health personnel with much higher incentive to work in Ugandan hospitals and health clinics. Health professionals here in Uganda are drastically underpaid--to the point where some of them are unable to provide for themselves and their families. Nearly every healthcare-related employee I have spoken to regarding the underemployment of Ugandan hospitals and health centers expresses their disagreement with the low pay of doctors and nurses. By increasing their pay, the government will provide a higher incentive for the health professionals to remain in-country rather than being forced to leave Uganda in search for better opportunities that will actually provide for them and their families.

  2. Our day at Mulago hospital was definitely the most eye-opening experience that I have had so far while in Uganda. I was scared for the patients as they had to fight for medical attention. The maternity ward was by far the most shocking experience. Mothers were extremely close to one another and had little privacy. The approximate 100 women sitting outside waiting to be discharged with their new born babies made my heart ache. The situations seen at Mulago made me appreciate the healthcare provided in America no matter the cost.

  3. As cliche as it sounds the visit to the hospital was truly life changing. It impacted me significantly and provided some of the most valuable life lessons imaginable. Seeing the lack of sufficient care they receive as well as the lack of staff just showed why the hospital is so poor. By having the government provide better wages and attracting job opportunities will only make the hospital better. It's amazing of some of the things we take for granted.

  4. I agree with Alex that my experience at Mulago gave a whole new perspective on health care. Just like anywhere else, Mulago seems to be faced with the issue of meeting a large need with limited resources. To help meet the needs of the people, are there any other incentives (aside from pay increase) that the government could look into to attract more doctors and nurses? Also, how are the public wards and private wards different from one another (in terms which patients are able to gain access to the private wards)? Are there any differences in care the private ward patients receive?

  5. I thought it was interesting that the government run hospitals focused solely on curing patients rather that providing preventative education during treatments and their stays. As I understand they are faced with limited resources, I know why they are unable to provide this education. I think preventative care is an important part in the sustainability of Uganda's healthcare because it will increase their health overall and potentially decreasing the congestion in the wards.