UGANDA: Makerere University Hospital ‘Terminally Ill’

October 2016 Observer; The once glorified university hospital at Makerere University is in a sorry state – operating in dilapidated structures, with no reliable electricity and inadequate staff.

The 32-bed hospital serving both out-patients and inpatients including university staff, students and neighbouring communities, has now reduced the beds to just 22.

According to the university website, Makerere university hospital offers both curative and preventive services.  The dental unit offers extraction, scaling, polishing and filling-in services for the teeth.  There is also a new and modern x-ray unit which deals with all x-ray diagnosis.  The laboratory concerns itself with examining samples of blood, stool and urine.

In addition, it also offers maternal child-health and Family Planning clinic which deals with the immunization of children and students, dispenses vaccines and contraceptives, first aid during student strikes and university functions like graduations among others.

Dr Margret Wandera, the director of the hospital, says their biggest challenge is under-staffing and inadequate resources. According to Wandera, because of its capacity the hospital is supposed to have 74 workers. However, currently there are 54 staff with only 3 doctors, 2 clinical officers and two nurses only available at night. The rest of the workers are cleaners, rendering the hospital short of skilled workers.

“When I joined this hospital in September 2014 as the acting director, there are some things that I put on my top priority list like increasing staff, but up to today I have never achieved it because of the government ban on recruitment,” she said in an interview.”We have three doctors, one physician, one radiologist, one public health doctor and two clinical officers who are on a six-month contract. As a result, we have even elevated some of the cleaners who have upgraded to serve as book keepers,” she added.

According to Wandera, due to staff shortage they have teamed up with other partners to provide some services. “We have partitioned some of the wards because of the few resources to run the hospital. We are partnering with some organisations for instance to provide Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) services,” said Dr Wandera.

Adding that, “X-ray services are outsourced because we cannot afford the cost of maintaining some of the machines. And we don’t have staff to operate some of the units.”

In the recent past, the hospital has registered declining performance with some services being stopped; it is more of a neglected section of the university.

Dr Wandera says “The inpatient hospital services are restricted to students from Makerere University; this university hospital handles largely students. On a semester basis, we can handle between 700-900 patients.”

“We offer services to different university units, but we are too stretched. That ambulance is my car. It’s what I use to monitor, deliver medicine to Jinja campus, Kabanyolo and main campus,” said Dr Wandera.

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the deputy vice chancellor (finance and administration) at Makerere confirms the deplorable state of the hospital, saying their major problem is poor funding.

“The university hospital is running on meagre resources just like any other facility in the university. We’d have loved a better library than we have. We’d love to have better laboratories than we have. We’d love to have better halls of residence; our halls of residence are also dilapidated. A section of Lumumba has been closed for 7 years now. So, it is not just the hospital, it is the whole university system that is suffering and the reason is inadequate funding”, he said.

Prof Nawangwe says they are hunting for partners to transform the hospital into a teaching hospital. “The university of Makerere’s stature should have a teaching hospital especially as our school of medicine is considered the best school in info-tropical medicine in the world. So we have a name to protect. The university has plans to establish to establish a university teaching hospital like you have teaching hospitals in universities in South Africa and the United States. Almost every major university has got a teaching hospital, which are the best hospitals as you say in their localities. Our dream is to establish the best hospital in Uganda in our land in Katalemwa”, said.

Every student pays Shs 10,000 for the services at the hospital for their entire period of study. Dr Wandera says the money is used for running costs of the hospital, which is insufficient. Students in other universities such Kyambogo pay Shs 50,000 as medical contribution every semester.


Before 1972, the university maintained a health post known as Makerere University Students Health Service or sick bay at the current Makerere University police post.  In 1972, when Idi Amin expelled Asians, the university acquired the premises formerly known as Nile Nursing Home.

The university Sick Bay relocated to the new premises. On February 16, 1978, President Idi Amin visited the Sick Bay and elevated it to a hospital status.

According to Makerere University Hospital Situation Report of 2015 conducted by the students’ guild, the hospital as of July 2015 was offering comprehensive health care to the students, staff and their families as well as the surrounding communities serving a population of about 60,000 people.

The hospital is located on Makerere hill road off Gadaffi road about 2 kilometres southwest of Mulago national referral hospital.



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