Health centres and hospitals across the country are running out of space for covid-19 patients as cases keep surging, Daily Monitor investigations reveals.
Some of the health facilities in various districts that are running quarantine centres, have since stopped admitting patients due to lack of either beds or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in March, the country has registered m 207 deaths. More than 22,000 people have also contracted the virus with 9,374 recoveries.
Health experts predict that Covid-19 deaths and cases are likely to jump as campaigns take shape ahead of 2021 General Election scheduled for January 14.
This is because candidates vying for different positions are holding rallies and meetings in total disregard of the recommended standard operating procedures aimed at controlling the spread of Corona.
Dr Nathan Onyachi, the director of Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, blames the increase in Covid-19 deaths and cases on high complacency among residents in the Greater Masaka Sub-region.
“There is a massive community transmission in Masaka amid disbelief that Covid-19 doesn’t exists at all. A big number of patients we get first visit clinics when they suspect Covid-19 symptoms. When they realise things are serious, they come to hospital when it is too late,” he adds.
Daily Monitor has learnt that the area has so far recorded 11 deaths of Covid-19.
Last month, Dr Yasiin Kiyemba, the medical superintendent of Rakai General Hospital, also died from Covid-19 after spending close to a month at Mulago National Referral Hospital.
According to Dr Onyachi, there are more than 186 cumulative cases in Greater Masaka and more than 70 people have been put in self-isolation. At least 137 cases have been discharged since the treatment centre was established in June. The cumulative homecare patients are 148 while there are 19 deaths.
Dr Onyachi asks people to be vigilant and follow the Covid-19 guidelines put in place by the government.
A mini survey conducted by Daily Monitor in selected health facilities upcountry, however, shows that despite the surge in Covid-19 infections, health facilities are ill prepared to handle the cases.
In Kabale District, the acting District Health Officer (DHO), Mr Alfred Besigensi, says the central government recently donated a 40-bed capacity tent but notes that more is needed to be done. The tent has been erected next to the isolation centre at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital to accommodate more Covid-19 patients.
“The initial isolation centre at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital has more than 50 beds and with the addition of a 40-bed capacity tent, I am sure it will help in delivering the desired health service,” he says.
Dr Michael Baganizi, the Kisoro hospital medical superintendent, says they do not treat coronavirus patients but nonetheless, the hospital has a 2-bed isolation centre for suspected cases. “Any patient who tests positive is referred to Kabale Regional Referral Hospital,” Dr Baganizi says.
Dr Florence Oyella, the acting director, says Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, has embarked on training medical workers in managing cases.
“As management, we are monitoring everything. We have started constant training of our health team to keep up to date with the latest ways of handling Covid-19 patients,” she says.
By December 4, Gulu hospital had three active Covid-19 cases and since March, 642 cases have been managed and discharged.
“We also lost four people whose conditions were critical and that is why it is important to have the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) installed at the hospital. ICU staff have already been identified,” Dr Oyella says.
However, the situation in the neighouring Amuru District is not pleasing at all. All the facilities in the district are understaffed, according to the DHO, Dr Patrick O. Olwedo. He warns that unless more staff are recruited, the district might not be in position to handle a surge in Covid cases.
“Staffing is our biggest challenge at Atiak Health Centre IV. We also don’t have adequate funds. Our isolation capacity is very small and any surge would force us to erect tents,” he adds.
In Soroti, the management of Soroti l hospital has erected two tents to create more space. The former units for tuberculosis and mental health with the initial bed capacity of 60 had already become full. With the two tents, the bed capacity of Covid-19 ward at the hospital increased from 60 to 100 patients.
Dr Michael Mwanga, the hospital director, says the government has been providing equipment and financial support to manage Covid-19 cases. However, he says the funds for buying food for patients and allowances for doctors, have not been provided in time.
“The ICU equipment was donated last month and the plans for installation are under way,” Dr he said.
The treatment facility has since managed a cumulative number of 441 Covid-19 cases. Forty cases are now being managed at the facility. Dr Mwanga warns the general public against crowding at political rallies.
In Kaberamaido District, the acting Resident District Commissioner, Mr Emmanuel Ametto, says the government is facing a huge challenge in the fight against Covid-19.
He reveals that one of the parliamentary candidates who recently tested positive for Covid-19 has rejected to go for treatment. Mr Ametto says he intends to report the matter to the Electoral Commission.
In Kabarole, the DHO, Mr Richard Mugahi, says because of increase in community interaction, there is more transmission of Covid-19. .
He says the only facility for patients at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital – is running out of space. “The Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital has a capacity of 12 beds for Covid-19 patients and only six beds have oxygen and yet the number is rising,” he says.
By December 3, Kabarole had registered 179 Covid-19 cases, with eight deaths, according to the district taskforce manager, Mr Brian Kisembo.
“More than 100 Covid-19 patients have been discharged and we have 72 under homecare management.
The Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital has three places where Covid-19 patients are admitted. The suspect ward, isolation ward and the ICU,” Mr Kisembo says.
He says the Ministry of Health last month gave Fort Portal hospital ICU equipment which are being installed.
The hospital administrator, Dr Luis Muhindo, says by December 4, the cumulative number of Covid-19 cases managed at Fort Portal hospital stood at 62, with five deaths.
In Lira, the Covid -19 treatment centre at Lira Regional Referral Hospital is well prepared to handle cases after the Ministry of Health erected two big tents, each with a 30-bed capacity.
Dr Stephen Obbo, an official at the hospital, says severe cases are being attended to at the ICU section, which was installed at the hospital in August. The ICU has a 10-bed capacity. There are only two cases being managed under homecare management in Lira.
The senior medical officer in-charge of Erute South Sub-health district, Dr Isaac Orech, says all the health workers in Lira have also been trained on infection and control against Covid-19.
He says their partner; Plan International Uganda has provided them with temperature guns. The health facilities also have megaphones used to sensitise locals against the virus.
Situation in Mbale
In Mbale, mortuary attendants attached to the city mortuary have raised concern over lack of protective gears. For the last three months, some workers have been providing services without facemasks and hand gloves. Mr Richard Nambafu, the facility’s in-charge, says his six workers are at risk of contracting Covid-19. “We are operating without a temperature gun, gumboots, sanitiser, soap, water, and facemasks,” he says. Mbale deputy Resident District Commissioner Lillian Nakawesa says the isolation centre at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital has run out of beds for new cases.
Compiled by Bill Oketch, Patrick Ebong, Robert Muhereza, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa Malik F Jjingo, Polycap Kalokwera, Alex Ashaba, George Muron, Emmanuel Olilia & Weswa Ronnie