Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health -MOH has said the Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital will not re-open to the general public this month, as earlier planned.
Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary of MOH, told Uganda Radio Network (URN) on Monday that the ministry has asked the hospital management to halt plans to re-open and continue managing only the Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.
The hospital closed the outpatient, dental, optical, maternal and child care departments in March last year to focus on the effective management of COVID-19 patients. Before its closure, the hospital served a population of over one million people from within Entebbe municipality, Katabi Town council, Buvuma and Kalangala districts.
Last month Muhammad Mubiru, the Principal Hospital Administrator of the Hospital said management wanted to re-open the facility to the public on April 1. However, the hospital had planned to only offer outpatient services like child and maternal health services and anti rabies vaccination.
Mubiru noted that the hospital will only resume full operations at the completion of the renovation works at the Entebbe National Isolation Centre. The centre is located in Manyago, about 2 kilometres from Entebbe Hospital.
However, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Health, says Entebbe hospital will remain closed due to the surging numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Last week, scientists noted that the second wave had begun in Uganda. They claimed the wave started in the second week of April due to an increase in reported COVID-19 cases, whereby a total of 130 new cases were reported in the last week of March and first week of this month.
Meanwhile, between April 11 to 17th, a total of 222 cases were reported. Of these, 27 were admitted at various heath facilities including Mulago National Specialised Hospital and Entebbe Hospital.
Scientists expect the number of infections to double compared to the first wave were over 40,000 cases were reported with 337 deaths. The peak of the first wave was experienced during November 2020 and January 2021, where over 26,000 cases were recorded with 215 deaths.
As a result, Dr. Atwine says Entebbe and Mulago will remain the biggest facilities for management of COVID-19 cases. However, due to the low number of new cases reported a few weeks back, she had instructed Mulago hospital management to handle only critically ill COVID-19 patients while those in less critical state would be admitted at Entebbe hospital.
She adds that Entebbe hospital cannot re-open some of its departments because the community still fears visiting the facility. As a result, Dr. Atwine says the hospital will re-open after patients are transferred to the Entebbe National Isolation Centre. The isolation centre is currently undergoing renovations. The renovations are expected to be completed by end of this month.
Also, management of the hospital noted that it needs at least shillings 80 million to carryout repairs and fix damaged beds, taps, toilet cisterns among other items that were destroyed by violent COVID-19 patients and suspects in the last one year.
Dr. Atwine says she has asked management to get the funds from within the hospital’s annual budget of shillings 5 billion, since most of the departments have been closed during this financial year. These departments include dental, eye and in-patient services. The hospital however runs weekly mobile clinics for diabetes and people living with HIV within Entebbe and surrounding areas.
Mubiru says management and staff will go back to the drawing board and proceed with repairs inside the affected wards namely the private maternity ward.
Meanwhile, a cross section of the public confirm Atwine’s assertion that the community will fear visiting Entebbe hospital unless COVID-19 cases are transferred to the isolation centre. The centre, located in Manyago, is 2 km away from the hospital.
Only one in ten residents say they would visit the facility when it still has COVID-19 patients.
The rest including Prossy Nakiganda and Jennifer Nakitende say the hospital has to assure the public that they will be safe if it insists on re-opening.
However, some residents led by Samson Mulondo and Ibrahim Sebunya say the community should not visit the facility until the COVID-19 patients are transferred to the isolation centre. Sebunya asks, “What if my wife goes for antenatal and also contracts COVID-19?”