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Doctors predict spike in patients after lockdown

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Doctors working at different hospitals report having a huge drop in both in and outpatients at their respective work stations something that they worry might overwhelm them when President Yoweri Museveni finally lifts the lockdown.

The doctors were attending a virtual meeting organized by the Makerere University School of Public Health on Wednesday to discuss the continuity of non-COVID-19 health services in the wake of the pandemic. They shared how specific facilities are performing in terms of patients, outpatients, the kind of emergencies they are receiving, antenatal care and other maternal health-related services among others.

One of them, Dr Peter Waiswa said he was at Kawempe National Referral Hospital on Tuesday and there were almost empty beds yet under normal circumstances, all they have previously complained about is overcrowding.

At Rubaga hospital, Dr Ronald Kasyaba reported that antenatal care attendance has reduced to 34 percent, deliveries have reduced to 26.4 percent while patients that come back for postnatal care have fallen completely to 11.4 percent. There has also been a 47 percent decline in antenatal care at St. Francis Naggalama hospital and that deliveries have reduced to 9.8 percent.

From Jinja Regional Referral hospital, the Deputy Director Dr Angella Namala says doctors are redundant after inpatients reduced by 50 percent and outpatients by 65 percent even as they have not halted any of their services in the wake of the pandemic.

They wondered where all the sick people have gone and are now expressing concern that a lot of people are dying undocumented in the community yet others are home in pain but cannot go to the health facilities. Waiswa said health workers should be braced for a spike in cases when the lockdown is lifted.

Namala predicts that at her hospital, there is likely to be a boom in the demand for elective surgeries as these are the only services that have so far been put on hold. The health workers warned that while the government is pre-occupied with flattening the curve of COVID-19 transmission, a lot more deaths are happening as routine care is ignored.

Prof. Pius OKong, the Chairman of the Health Service Commission said that they had actually catered for interruptions at the beginning of the COVID-19 response when they hired over 400 health workers to exclusively tackle the emergency.

He adds that the government needs to ensure now that there will be resources to fund the surge in demand for health services when the lockdown is lifted since resources were hugely cut for local government this quarter.

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