Patients Denied Treatment In Arua Hospital Over Lack Of Smartphones

Patients seeking health services at Arua regional referral hospital in the West Nile region are being denied treatment due to lacking smartphones.

The most affected patients are those seeking radiology services like x-ray and computerized tomography (CT) scan at the out-patients department (OPD).

The development comes at a time when the hospital management moves to fully operationalize the newly constructed OPD facility equipped with modern equipment, constructed with a grant from the government of Japan.

Smartphones are used to send radiology examination results to patients as opposed to the old practice where the results are printed on x-ray film.

Fred Tabu, the deputy Arua city speaker who was referred for x-ray services at the facility this week said that several patients could not be attended to due to lack of a smartphone to access their results. Tabu further notes that at least three patients who had turned up for x-ray services were turned away in his presence since they lacked smartphones.

Paul Atayo, a businessman in Arua city wants the hospital administration to go slow in the digitalization of services in the facility noting that a large number of the population lacks smartphones. He further argues that several residents cannot afford smartphones since they are expensive.

“First, a person doesn’t even know how to use this smartphone, two, it is difficult to afford, it is expensive. The best one ranges from Shs 300,000 to Shs 1 million. Getting results through the smartphone is a good idea but imagine we have some people from the village who don’t have smartphones,” said Atayo.

Dr Alex Andema, director of Arua hospital explains that they adopted the use of smartphones, especially for accessing x-ray results in order to among others improve their service. But, Dr Andema denied the claims by patients that those without smartphones are being denied x-ray services.

“We send it to somebody’s phone or a family member but you cannot just send it anyhow. You first agree on who will receive the results,” said Andema.

In 2022, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) market report estimated that smartphone penetration in the country stood at 30 per cent while the remaining 70 per cent of Ugandans use a basic phone or feature phone.  

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