I went there for one reason only. I went there to check if the hospital had improved since the shock visit the President made back at the dawn of his tenure.
When he set foot on Muhimbili turf, he was visibly shocked. He caught his breath, ordered this and he ordered that. Then he sacked the board.
And what did we, the man in the street think? We cheered and then we reflected and came to the rapid conclusion that here at last was a politician who had somehow clawed and clambered out of that dreamy, cocooned unreal world that our political masters had built for themselves over so many years.
Here was a politician who was finally experiencing what we, the public, already knew. John Pombe Magufuli was, indeed, a man of the people.
Here was a politician who was inaugurating a new era, one where corruption would be driven out and where the rule of law held sway.
Or was he?
Because once he had left the Muhimbili premises with his stringent words ringing in the ears of the administrators, would anything really change?
Would the Muhimbili be a more efficient, more caring hospit-al? Would it deserve our confidence instead of our scorn? Would we be happy to be admitted and not be scared out of our striped pyjamas.?
So, with this in mind, and realising that today is his one hun-dredth in power, I decided to have a look for myself.
What did I find? Shining, newly painted wards with happy pa-tients sitting up in beds with clean sheets? Fully equipped op-erating theatres? Doctors and nurses with smiles instead of scowls on their faces?
Well, not quite. But it certainly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Yes, there is a new CT scanner, although I have to say from what I have read it is not new. New money didn’t buy it. It has been transferred from its original designation, in Dodoma, to the Muhimbili.
However, according to Professor Lawrence Museru, the man who stepped into the Muhimbili mess, the income generated by the scanner added to the income generated by the other ma-chine is enough to pay the staff their salary arrears.
Hurrah for that! But wait. Should there be so much exultation from the fact that CT scanners are being used as an income ge-nerator?
I know that it takes money to run a hospital. Billions of shil-lings. But it also takes money to afford to have a scan. Shouldn’t we be making health care free? Why should the rich be the only people who can buy their way out of a health hole?
Indeed it would be useful, not just for me, but also for the pa-tients, to know exactly what the new bosses are planning to do besides what they have already done to improve the hospital.
I know Gerald Jeremiah who is the director of finance has outlined his financial plans but it seems to me this all relies on getting a loan from amongst others the National Health Insur-ance Fund. He wants to use this money to shorten patient waiting times and to upgrade the operating theatre.
If it were you, where would you start? I think I would begin by making sure the staff were paid promptly and rewarded fairly for their efforts. This would, at a stroke, raise morale and the subsequent goodwill would cascade down through the hie-rarchy to the patients.
We shall see.
Meanwhile, I can report that I did not see anyone who was be-ing ignored or even shunned by the doctors. I did not talk to any patients who were complaining, as they had done so many times in the pre-Magufuli era, of having to ‘persuade’ the staff, nurses, doctors, ward orderlies, to assist them.
But, as I have said, it is early days and my visit may well have come on a ‘good’ day when the hospital was fully staffed and the month’s salaries had been paid.
Last week I was ranting on about the need for transparency, particularly in the shadowy corridors of power where deals are struck and important contracts are signed.
Well, the shadowy corridors of power are not the only places where our lives are affected by underhand and corrupt beha-viour.
The corridors of the Muhimbili should be as transparent as the government’s lobbies. Indeed the Muhumbili should be a flag-ship indicator for the progress of this government.
Will it ever happen? Only, it seems, if the President sets up camp there. He made another visit there this week, on the eve of his 100th day in office.
This time he went to the maternity wards. And what did he see?
Sorry to say, the same old story. He saw expectant mothers who didn’t even have beds to rest themselves upon. What on earth must they have been thinking as the hour of birth drew near?
But, if the improvements after his last visit are anything to go be, then, we can expect that the maternity unit will up its game. And that will be to the benefit of all of us.
Too often in our country we finally come to realise that a prob-lem exists in a particular area, so we belatedly address it, and then celebrate our positive action. We think that because we have appointed a new team, a new board, a new minister , a new president that everything will work out.
Of course this is not enough. Managing a hospital, editing a newspaper, governing a country is not about style. It is about substance. It is about not what you say. It is about what you do.
And if you do nothing, if you fail to act, then corruption and maladministration, like a cancerous tumour, will inevitably re-turn. And, when it does, it comes back reinvigorated, much stronger and often lethally.
Meanwhile Mr President, how about going down to the port and to the tax office?
I wonder what has happened there since his last, unexpected visit? Maybe I will visit them next week.