Many pregnant women will tell you that the experience of labour and eventually giving birth is one they cannot forget. The discomfort and pain for many cannot be equated. You can imagine, therefore, what it is like for a woman in labour to have to share a hospital bed with a fellow pregnant woman.

This is what pregnant women seeking help at Ongica Health Centre III in Ngetta Sub-county, Lira District, face. The centre caters for patients from four parishes: Iwal, Ongica, Ongura and Anya Apuc. Because there is a shortage of beds, the centre has been forced to make women share the facilities. Although the ward was built to accommodate 15 people, it currently serves 50.

What’s worse, because of the shortage of the beds, some women in labour are forced to sit on the benches or lie on the floor, as they wait for others to be discharged so they can take their slots. The officer in-charge of the health centre, Ms Miriam Adongo, when spoken to, did not know what to do to accommodate three women in labour, who had come to the clinic because already, the area used to admit patients was being used to provide antenatal services. Adongo and the pregnant women she was attending to are not the only ones facing the problem. Hundreds of others across the country face similar constraints.

The Guidelines for Designation, Establishment and Upgrading of Health Units drawn by the Ministry of Health in 2011, state that a Health Centre III should target a population of 20,000 people and provide among other amenities, maternity services. Enough beds should be among the equipment health centres have in order to provide adequate services. Ongica Health Centre III was built in 2004 and 11 years later, it is evident that there is need to improve the conditions there.

These health centres across the country complement the district hospitals as well as bring the services closer to the people. But as the population grows and more people seek medical services, more should be done to provide enough equipment and basic services. Once women have been encouraged not to use Traditional Birth Attendants and get those services from the health centres, they should be assured of finding a bed to lie or deliver on when they arrive.

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