ARUA. At least two Ministry of Health employees attached to Arua regional referral hospital have been arrested over negligence of duty that resulted in the death of five coronavirus disease patients at the government health facility.

The two were on Saturday evening arrested on the orders of local leaders following the death of Covid-19 patients on Friday and Saturday morning.

The leaders include; Feta Geoffrey, the Ayivu East MP, Sam Wadri Nyakua, the Arua City Mayor, Alfred Okuonzi, the Arua district chairperson and Malon Avutia, the Ayivu Division Mayor with the full knowledge of Jackson Lee Atima, the Arua Central Division MP.

Dr. Sam Okuonzi, the Arua regional referral hospital Board Chairperson who was part of the local leaders that visited the facility on the fateful day, confirmed the arrest and said the staff have been handed over to the police of Arua central police station for further investigations.

Without revealing their names, Okuonzi said those arrested are the hospital Electricians. He said one of the electricians was summoned for the meeting on the phone, only to report while drunk and without a face mask.

“We are here because there has been concern about lack of oxygen, people died yesterday (Friday) because of lack of oxygen. And so, the public has raised this issue to the leaders of the district and the leaders have called me with other people so that we can come and solve the problem,” Okuonzi said.

“So, what we have found out is that the staff here have not been doing their work, some of them actually mismanaged the plant and also the power house. The whole system; the power house and the oxygen plant have not been managed properly, so the flow of oxygen to patients has not been proper. This evening, we have got two key people; the technician who runs the power house and also the technician who runs the oxygen plant,” Okuonzi confirmed.

He said the duo disclosed to them that they have not been on duty, adding that some of them have been drinking outside while the other has been moving with keys to the generator home.

Okuonzi also noted that the automation of the only running new generator of the hospital was purposely disabled by one of the two staff on grounds that there is no fuel.

“But we don’t believe that was the main reason. I think the main reason is they wanted to try and get some reason to generate a list of requirements. Actually, they confessed that they had generated a list of requirements for a new generator which is not spoiled. They have generated a list of spare parts which they have hidden, but they have spoken about it in the meeting,” Okuonzi stressed.

Arua hospital generatorThe new Arua hospital generator that has landed the electricians in trouble. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI

“So, what we have decided is that the two should be taken to police to make statements because they are responsible for the loss of several people on Friday and Saturday morning because of lack of oxygen,” Okuonzi said.

He revealed that three covid-19 patients died on Friday and two others died on Saturday morning as a result of negligence on the side of the staff members arrested. By the time of their arrest, Okunzi said Dr. Philip Nyeko, the Arua Hospital Director was out of office for official duties.

According to Okuonzi, Arua hospital has a bed capacity of 34 corona patients, but they are currently managing over 260 cases at the government facility. He said out of the 34 in the treatment unit, 8 are in critical condition while the rest require oxygen from time to time.

“There is a big problem here in the hospital. The brand-new generator, the people who are operating it, have switched it off. Even when there is fuel, that generator doesn’t work and as a result, there are people who have died in the treatment centre. Once power goes off, people who are put on oxygen suffocate and die and that is how we lost the Arua Agriculture Officer, the late Madam Badaru Gertrude,” Sam Wadri Nyakua, the Arua City Mayor said shortly after the arrest was made.

Jackson Lee Atima, the Arua Central Division MP suggested that the generator at the hospital should be re-automated to avoid the situation in which the oxygen plant fails to work due to lack of power. Atima also tasked WENRECo to connect the hospital on the red line to avoid cases of power outages at such a critical moment of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile Feta said the situation at Arua hospital has not been good due to shortage of oxygen and a number of management issues. He said as leaders, they now want to find a lasting solution to the problems.