By Transparency International Uganda (TIU)
It was yet another beautiful day after heavy downfall. The question ringing in Simon's mind was whether or not he could go for health center visits, imagining the road conditions. From nowhere, he found strength to move and visit the health centers. It was 9 a.m. when he reached Amach Health Center IV in Northern Uganda. Even though he reached this health center, he still felt something missing: “Oh my, what is this that I feel; someone else needs me to listen to their cry somewhere other than where I am.”
Surprisingly, when Simon reached his destination, there were over twenty patients waiting for health workers, who were nowhere to be seen. This was an opportunity for him to take advantage of the situation and he went ahead to interact with and sensitize the community health users. There were more women than men. Simon started taking photographs. The patients were wondering what this handsome young man was doing.
“Is he a journalist, photographer, or does he just loves taking photographs?” someone wondered.
“I always see him coming around this health center, it seems he is concerned with monitoring this facility,” another patient responded.
It was a moment they had long been waiting for. Simon stepped up and greeted the gathering of patients, who, by 10:15 a.m., had reached the number of seventy eight. Yet no service delivery had started. Simon greeted them: “Ibutu wuno aberr,” meaning ‘good morning to you all.’
“Hey, he even speaks our language,” one patient exclaimed.
“I know most of you are wondering who I am and what I am here to do. Well, my name is Simon Peter Ogwang. I work with Transparency International Uganda,” Simon said. “I am here to work together with you to monitor health service delivery at this very health center, since you stay near this facility.”
“But how will you help us? These health workers are always absent, they report late and even start working late. We have been here for nearly two and a half hours and no one has attended to any of us. For sure we are disappointed.”
“I believe now you realize the importance of working together to improve health services. We can make it happen because we are stronger as a community to send our voices out, to demand that best practice is put in place, and that our rights are not violated.”
It was amazing that health workers who were around eavesdropping mobilized their other colleagues to start working.
The next and final visit of that great day was Barr Health Center III. There was a large number of patients waiting to be attended to. Three health workers who were supposed to be on duty were attending a workshop and two more were in for a meeting at the health center.
“You tell us you are improving service delivery, but as a matter of fact what is happening today happens here most of the time. What can we do? We are helpless, our pain can't wait, our patience is running out and our voices can never be hard,” said Apio, one of the community women. Apio continued by saying that women had many other responsibilities besides being at the health center without being attended to.
“Why can't you leave some of the activities to your spouse?” Simon asked.
“Hah, don't even ask about that, do you really think these men want to support us? They only know making babies. Once we conceive, they are nowhere to be seen,” Molly said.
“It is not our job to bring our wives to the hospital, we have much bigger concerns,” Ogwal responded.
This was the call from Simon: “Whether or not everybody agrees that family responsibilities are for everyone, let us all share the responsibility and ensure that we support women and children in accessing health service delivery, send and support women's voices at local council community meetings, and call for all men to start supporting their spouses in accessing health care.” And he continued: “We are going to provide you with a toll-free telephone line so that you can call in and report challenges you are facing in accessing health care services. The situation demands of us that we work together for the good of our community.”
“Oh yes, I think this will work out, our voices need to be heard and we also need to actively participate in health center monitoring. Together we can do this,” Grace said.
Indeed this was the greater calling that Simon had heard that morning: an interactive and participatory dialogue for change, for feeling empowered and being involved in health service monitoring. There is always a greater calling somewhere.
Learn more about TIU, visit: www.facebook.com/StopAbsenteeism