Dar es Salaam. It had never crossed the mind of Ms Aisha Mwananvua,28, that a patient admitted to the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) would ever be asked to sleep on the floor.
Being the highest national health facility, Mwananvua believed Muhimbili was supposed to be a fully serviced medical centre with all that it takes to brag as the biggest referral hospital in the country.
But far from it, last week she was forced to spend three nights on a mattress laid on the floor of a crowded maternity ward at the facility.
“It was even difficult to set up a mosquito net. The buzzing insects would penetrate some of the spaces where the net would not attach properly,’’ said Ms Mwananvua, narrating:
“At times the ward attendants would come to clean the floor and splash water. As a patient, one is forced to look for an alternative space until the cleaning is done.”
Ms Mwananvua was among 60 women who were yesterday moved to another building, leaving the maternity block where they had been sleeping on the floor.
By the time she was speaking to The Citizen, she was already occupying her new bed at the building which was formerly used as a Reproductive and Child Health Offices for the Ministry of Health staff. Last week, President John Magufuli asked 70 officials who were using the building located within the MNH premises to vacate so that their offices would be turned into a maternity ward.
The President arrived at the decision after he made a second impromptu visit to the MNH and found women, who were admitted in a crowded ward, sleeping on mattresses laid on the floor within the maternity block.
On Sunday, the officials who were occupying the building close to the maternity block took heed of the President’s directive and vacated, leaving the women with ample space for accommodation.
It is yet to be established if the new buliding would be a condusive place for the ailing women, given that it had probably not been designed to be a ward.
The Medical Stores Department (MSD) handed over 120 hospital beds, 480 bed sheets and 10 beds for new-born babies at the MNH in abid to fill up the space and by yesterday noon, women who were formerly sleeping on the floor in the nearby maternity block, were already allocated rooms and beds.
According to the permanent secretary in the Health Ministry, Dr Mpoki Ulisumbisya, the officials would now be relocated to other government buildings.
To Asia Mohammed, 35, a resident of Mbagala, the President’s decision was what she had been praying for, given that she had spent about two weeks at the hospital nursing her baby who was born with complications.
“My pregnancy was so complicated and that’s why I was referred to this hospital from Temeke,” she narrated.
To her, sleeping on the floor was not her major problem, but the aversion she had to share a bed with a person she did not know. And sometimes sharing a bed with over three patients.
“It was my first time to be admitted to this big hospital, but I should confess to you that sharing a bed with another patient is a very difficult thing,’’ she said.
According to the MNH acting executive director, Professor Lawrence Museru, the problem with congestion at the hospital is seasonal.
“There are times when the number of women referred to this hospital overshoots and we’ve about 70 women being forced to share beds or sleeping on the floor,’’ he said in an interview.
But the don says, the surest way to decongest the hospital is ensuring better healthcare services at lower level health facilities across the country.
The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, told journalists yesterday that the government had already drawn up plans to ensure regional hospitals across Tanzania were better equipped to handle more complicated cases in an effort to decongest Muhimbili. “We are now going to ensure the MNH is reserved for cases that cannot be handled elsewhere in the country,” she said.
With a bed capacity of over 1,500, the MNH is slowly going through ‘transformation’’, but in most cases, President John Magufuli’s quick interventions seem to dominate the course of action.
Last year, he made a surprise visit at the hospital and found several patients sleeping on the floor at Sewahaji Ward. He then cut down the budget of a cocktail party arranged for his inaugural speech in Paliarment to purchase hospital beds, and the problem seemed to have been solved until last week when he made another visit only to discover cases of patients still sleeping on the floor.
Last night, Mwananvua and her colleagues, despite their respective conditions, must have heard a sound sleep for the first time since their admission to the hospital.
Clean bed sheets, ample space and air conditioned rooms were all theirs, thanks to the President’s intervention. Today when they wake up, their only worries may be the long wait for their time to deliver comes.