MARACHA. The board and management of St. Joseph’s Hospital Maracha have launched a fundraising drive towards the hospital sustainability and development of a well-equipped modern neonatal intensive care unit.

Speaking to journalists during the launch of the fundraising activities that will run from December 9-20, 2019 at the hospital on Thursday, Dr. Alphonse Taban, the hospital Medical Director said they intend to raise shs500m for the construction of the neonatal intensive care unit in the initial phase and then shs400m in the subsequent drives to equip the facility.

The activities will include a fundraising run on December 14, 2019 in Maracha but prior to that, there will be a free surgical camp for Hernia from December 10-13, 2019, display of products from different suppliers and manufacturers, screening for high blood pressure and dinner among other things.

He said the move is aimed at reducing the neonatal mortality rate which is still high at 26 out of 1000 live births at the hospital.

“Whereas Uganda subscribes to the global target of fewer than 12 babies in 1000 live births dying per year, the situation at St. Joseph’s Hospital Maracha and Uganda at large is worse which has prompted a fundraising drive to raise shs500m for the neonatal intensive care unit,” Dr. Taban explained.

He noted that according to the Ministry of Health annual performance survey of the 2016/2017 financial year, Maracha district was the fourth worst place to be born as a child when the neonatal mortality rate was 39 out of 1000 live births.

Taban said at that time, the hospital didn’t have a newborn unit to care for the very sick neonates.

He pointed out the leading causes of the neonatal mortality rate as being birth asphyxia, sepsis and prematurity as a result of late referrals to the hospital.

“Management later took a strategic decision to establish a newborn unit which in one year, had an impact of reducing the neonatal mortality rate from 39/1000 to 26/1000,” Taban stated.

He, however, said the unit is too small compared to the numbers of neonates with a bed capacity of 6 yet on average, 10 babies are born in the hospital at any given time.

Taban added that the two functional incubators are of the late 20th century and do not meet the current medical recommendations for incubator technology.

Dr. Taban2 22 11 19Dr. Taban looks at a mother lying on the floor as she takes care of her child in the incubator (R) at St. Joseph's Hospital Maracha on Thursday. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI

He said with the aforementioned challenges, they felt it necessary to have a fully-fledged neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital.

“As I speak now, Coca Cola Uganda has committed to supporting us and UNICEF has already donated for us equipment worth shs29m. We have joint medical stores who are going to support us with the medicine and supplies to be able to conduct the surgical camp and we also have Rotary Club which is helping us in the general organization of the fundraising run,” Taban said.

He observed that Maracha Parish has already allocated for them a piece of land measuring 36x16m for the construction of the neonatal intensive care unit.

Mr Primo Waswa, the project Engineer said if all the resources are available, he intends to start the work at the beginning of the year 2020 and take between 5 to 6 months of completion and handing over.

Meanwhile, Mr Joseph Lomongin, the Maracha district chief administrative officer (CAO) who doubles as the project central organizing committee chairman promised to ensure that the cause succeeds.

“We are mobilizing at the district level as technical officers to ensure that communities and friends support the construction resource-wise. Through government structures, we should be able to speak to government that this facility has taken off so that they can come in to support it,” Lomongin said.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Maracha, a private nonprofit entity located in Nyadri sub-county, Maracha district was started in 1953 by Christian missionaries who later handed it over to Arua Catholic Diocese.

Dr. Taban 22 11 19Dr. Taban (5R) speaks to guests at the site of the proposed neonatal intensive care unit in Maracha on Thursday. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI