Ulofi Hospital, a patient’s worse nightmare [Archives:2003/661/Health]

August 21 2003

By Farooq Muqbil
For the Yemen Times, Hodeidah

There goes Abdulwahid again with his thick file of paperwork and prescriptions running around in the hospital trying to get things done. It's been two weeks since his relative's operation was to be made but the date seems to be postponed from one to another. “I just don't have enough money!” he screams out, while the nurse whispers in my ear “his relative would be lucky if he survived after the operation, because getting out of this is like being born again!”
Some patients would rather die at home than come here. It seems there is a better chance of surviving if they don't get admitted in this hospital.
Ameen al-Wisabi comments add to this saying that even medicines sold in the medical store are brought from private pharmacies to be sold here.

Old You mean ancient!
Looking more like a historical monument than a hospital, we toured the Ulofi hospital in Hodeidah, dating back to the Imamate times, decades ago. That was the very place that al-Ulofi and his partners attempted assassination of Imam Ahmed 1909. Later on the country with assistance from Kuwait built the four-story building which is about to be reduced to a mass grave for hundreds of patients.
Dr. Yahya al-Dhamari general manager commented on this by saying; “So true, the hospital is quite old and parts of it are falling down, especially in the second floor which was closed down two years ago due to engineers' reports indicating that the building could fall down any time and that there is no point in restoring it. In the case of the hospital collapsing then there is no need for rebuilding because there is Salaih medical city which is being constructed currently. One of the doctors in the hospital indicated that there is intention of selling the land to a businessman for some administration project.
Dr. al-Dhamari the general manager of the hospital added that the situation reached this miserable state due to the fact that the budget allocated to services and renovations in the hospital stops short of the required amount. Also geographical circumstances were not in favor of the building due to the hot damp weather and the humidity.
Another problem is that of the medical store, where medicines are sold at high prices beyond the patients abilities.
The general manager said regarding this issue: “The hospital gets a monthly budget of medicines and medical requirements, but unfortunately there is no subsidizing and so when selling off to the patients the prices are relatively high, especially that most of the patients who come here are drastically poor, otherwise they wouldn't risk coming to this hospital”

Eye witnesses
Of the things we saw during our visit was the ICU room, which we got a permission to see after a great effort, there were 8 patients in the 4×6 square meters room. While the irony was that adjacent to the ICU there were five chambers dedicated entirely for the oil company employees and not the public. And this section is supervised by the vice manager personally and we were not allowed to take photos there at all.
All during the tour I was shocked with the scenes I came across, whether those of the out of order lifts that were transferred into garbage dumps or the sleeping section where wall-paints are pealing off and the broken beds and dirty bed sheets. I just didn't know what to take with my camera and finally I took a snap of the price list which paying for would be the last thing those dying patients would do before passing away.

Spot light
To be honest there was something positive about the hospital that it is only fair to mention so as to conclude this investigative report perhaps on a rather lighter note. It is that some of the medicines are dispensed for free to some of the poor patients who have incurable diseases such as diabetic people, or other medicines such as those for malaria, iron deficiency medicine, epilepsy, for asthma and a few others.
To sum it up, it is such a waste to see this hospital collapse after decades of service. It is not enough that there is an alternative, there should be respect and responsibility in the way the government is dealing with such institutions. It is simply not fair, not for the hospital, not for the patients and not even for this city that needs this facility so badly.