PAC Queries Idle MRI Machine at Mulago Hospital

The MRI machine contains powerful magnets and it is used to carry out complex medical tests like coronary tests for heart patients, brain and spinal tests and others. MPs learnt that this is the only available government MRI machine in the country and its idleness implies that patients are forced to seek for the services from costly private facilities.
Mulago Hospital interdicted Executive Director, Dr. Byarugaba Baterana and other officials before PAC.

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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC)- Central Government has questioned the failure to utilize the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine at Mulago National Referral Hospital four years after its installation. An MRI contains powerful magnets and is used to carry out complex medical tests like coronary tests for heart patients, and brain and spinal tests among others.

According to the legislators, the failure to deploy the MRI has forced patients to turn to services from the costly private facilities. In his 2020/2021 financial year audit report, the Auditor General, John Muwanga, Mulago Hospital noted that the government spent Shillings 474.47 million on December 11th, 2020 for refurbishment of the MRI machine, which has never been put to use since its delivery and installation in 2018.

“Interviews with Hospital staff revealed that the machine had low helium levels, lacked UPS power supply, was missing work station computer for data processing and machine consumables such as contrast and films. Interviews with staff further revealed that since the equipment was delivered in 2018, it has not been put to the intended use,” reads part of the audit report. Muwanga further reveals that the machine remains idle despite the hospital training staff. 

He noted that the machine keeps heating and uses expensive gas, which makes its maintenance difficult. Asuman Basalirwa, the Vice-Chairperson of PAC wondered whether Mulago National Referral hospital was ready to receive the machine in 2018.

David Nuwamanya, the Principal Administrator of Mulago Hospital confirmed that the MRI machine is yet to be put to use to date. He said that the Shillings 474.47 million was spent to refill helium gas, which is provided by the manufacturer. He explained that the gas is refilled whether or not the machine is working.

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Nuwamanya further explained that the general renovation works of the hospital cannot allow the operationalization of the equipment. He said that the experts advised the hospital not to use the machine since the environment, in which it is required to operate is not adequate.

MPs learned that the machine requires operationalization of the HVAC System that encompasses the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning of the building. According to Nuwamanya, an assessment of the environment has now been done and the hospital awaits a report to clear the usage of the machine starting in August.

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Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP questioned why the equipment was never shifted to any other government health facility in Kampala to provide the service to Ugandans since Mulago Hospital was still undergoing renovation.

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Fredrick Angura, the Tororo South MP also questioned why the hospital would have a machine delivered before ascertaining the availability of space and condition for it to operate.

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Besides the MRI Machine, PAC also learned that other vital medical equipment at the hospital is in poor working condition while others are not fully functional and require replacement.  The auditor general identified the equipment as autoclaves in the central sterile service department, patient monitors in the accident and emergency surgical unit, blood coagulation machine in the clinical laboratory unit, ICU beds in the Intensive Care Unit, and CT machine in the Radiology department.

The hospital officials, who were in the company of the interdicted Executive Director, Byarugaba Baterana, attributed the poor state of the equipment to limited funding provided under the capital development budget and lack of maintenance funds.

They told MPs that the hospital needs at least Shillings 10 billion annually for maintenance but only Shillings 6 billion is provided. Nuwamanya said that they have state-of-the-art machines but they cannot maintain them because it is expensive.

“We have trained biomedical engineers who can work on the machines but they don’t have a workshop,” he said. Dr. Baterana also said that there is a need to sponsor the biomedical engineers to go for further studies in order to specialize in the maintenance of specific equipment.

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