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DHO issues verbal COVID-19 results to reduce delays

Masaka District DHO Dr Stuart Musisi says that since they stopped taking their results to the testing centre in Mutukula, it takes them an average of three days to receive results from the Entebbe-based Uganda Virus Research Institute.

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  District Health Officers (DHOs) have opted to offer verbal COVID-19 results for timely service, amidst piling pressure on the Ministry of Health over the delayed return of results. 

Masaka District DHO Dr Stuart Musisi says that since they stopped taking their results to the testing centre in Mutukula, it takes them an average of three days to receive results from the Entebbe-based Uganda Virus Research Institute.

He adds that when they receive the results, they are often in soft copy, implying that they have to incur additional costs to have them printed and distributed to the individual recipients.  Musisi told Uganda Radio Network on Monday that because of the challenges this presents, they no longer give results to everybody that tests but avail them verbally to those that ask for them. 

Just last week, the Kitgum district DHO Dr Alex Olwedo revealed that it took them three weeks to have results in which one of the people who tested positive had been discharged from quarantine having completed the 14 days duration. 

But according to Musisi, they focus mainly on those in quarantine since it’s a requirement to have a  discharge certificate and those that test positive who need to be transferred to treatment centres. 

His concern is shared with his counterpart from Kazo district in western Uganda Dr Samuel Tweheyo who says they take up to five days to receive results, yet still, when they get them via Whatsapp or email they take another day to avail them to the recipients. Tweheyo’s samples are always tested at the Butabika based public health laboratories. 

He says they can’t just print results for everyone, a move that leaves many in suspense. This, however, seems not to be just a problem of districts in the countryside. Several people who have tested in the capital Kampala have either never heard from the Ministry months after sample collection and yet some got to hear from them weeks later. 

But, the Ministry of Health disregards this.  According to Lt. Col Dr Henry Kyobe, the COVID-19 incident commander at the Ministry of Health, the results can’t delay for weeks as all samples that are drawn are tested within 48 hours and results are delivered to respective District Health Officers (DHOs). 

However, Dr Patrick Odong Olwedo the DHO Amuru district told URN on Monday that they would experience delays of up to a week until a COVID-19 testing laboratory was established at Adjumani Hospital. Now, he says, it takes them about 12 hours to have results out and delivered.  

For him, the solution to having results delivered in time everywhere is to take services closer to the district by accrediting more laboratories to conduct tests.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Health announced three new private laboratories that are set to conduct tests for pay in addition to the eight that was already announced months ago which conducts the tests at a free charge.

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