YUMBE. Yumbe general hospital that has been upgraded to a regional referral hospital has started its operations without being funded.

The 100 bed capacity hospital that was built in 1969 has been under rehabilitation and expansion since 2017 and it was officially commissioned by president Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni on January 9.

The works of the hospital cost about Shs 70billion with funding from Arab Bank for development in Africa, Saudi fund for development in Africa and Opec fund for international development.

But lack of funding to support the operations in the hospital beats the understanding of the stakeholders as to why there was no funds allocated to run the hospital.

Speaking during the opening of the regional referral hospital on Thursday, Dr Alfred Yayi the District Health Officer said the general hospital has served the people of the area for about 52years and from July 1, it has now been upgraded.

He said the number of people in the region is big including the Refugees which Arua regional hospital can't handle alone.

"For us to move forward, we need a lot of resources. We have done costings, the wage bill requires about Shs 10billion and it also requires about Shs 6billion for non-wage operational issues that are quite many but it is unfortunate that this was not catered for in this financial year's budget", he said.

"We hope that something will be done so that services here can run as they suit because without resources, we may not utilize all the investments here", he added.

He said they have seconded and recalled the general hospital staff deployed in the three health centre IV's where the general hospital services were transferred to start the regional referral hospital but the facility needs about 534 members of staff which was approved by public service.

Mr Godfrey Onzima, the member of parliament for Aringa North said the element of lack of funding for the regional referral hospital took them by surprise.

He said the plan to allocate funds for the hospital was there because the team from the ministry of finance carried out an assessment at the facility where all the recommendations were cleared.

"All the requirements were done and the ministry of finance wrote to us that, according to the conditions on ground, there was no way that the hospital could be stopped from being upgraded into a regional referral hospital. I was surprised when the Yumbe leaders called me that they were told to budget for the hospital as a general hospital but I asked how? because what I know from the assurance from ministry of finance and public service was that, there was no other obstacle but I came to know this when we were debating on the budget which was late", he said.

Onzima however said, it may not be too late because they tried to discuss with the ministry of finance that there may be an option of supplementary budget but the worry may be the issue of Covid-19 because government priorities have shifted to it.

He promised that they are going to be committed and fight to ensure that the funding for the regional referral hospital must be availed.

Mr Abdulmutwalib Asiku, the district chairperson said the regional referral hospital has been opened but there are other existing gaps which must be addressed.

"For a facility to be called a regional referral hospital, there are other things that are not established like the regional blood bank, oxygen production plant, advanced imaging block, ENT/Eye clinic, mental health department and the absence of the health training institutions. These are facilities that can conclusively qualify a facility to be called a regional referral hospital", he said.

"These are areas which have been identified as a gap and it's our responsibility to follow and ensure that this facility is not a regional referral hospital by name but by infrastructural facility and by the things we are going to do here", he added.

Mr Siraji Ezama the MP for Aringa constituency said the facility should be maintained well for its sustainability.

"There have been some cases of theft registered in other regional referral hospitals like Arua where an ambulance got lost, so such case scenarios shouldn't be entertained here in this facility and something already brought should help the masses", he said.

Ms Caroline Angolere, the RDC said "if we have put up such excellent structures, it means we should continue to support the people to access quality service. This hospital becomes useless without human resources and financial resources to run it", she said.

She said the main issues pressing the facility are issues of water and wage bill which should be addressed adding that the MPs should continue re-echoing the issue of the wage bill in parliament so that more staff are recruited for the hospital.

Din CarolL-R_ Ms Melsa Naima Avako, Ms Caroline Angolere and other stakeholders arrive at the hospital for it's opening. PHOTO BY ROBERT ELEMA