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‘I am dead’ – the story of Uganda’s Patient Zero

FILE PHOTO of a patient

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | ” I am the bread earner. I am everything in my family. I am dead.”  Those were the first words Patient Zero said after Ministry of Health officials told him that tests had confirmed he was positive for COVID-19.

The Director of Entebbe Hospital Dr. Moses Muwanga on Saturday narrated the encounter between health officials and Patient Zero March 21, when he was confirmed to have the dreaded Coronavirus.

He said the first patient was traumatized just like staff and this prompted management to provide psycho-social counselling for both patients and staff.

“The psycho-social counsellor we picked to reveal the news to the index case, sweated and nearly failed to put on the protective gear we gave her. We had to first counsel her and she then spent 20 minutes with the patient,” he revealed.

Soon after, several hospital staff took off when Uganda’s first Coronavirus disease-COVID-19 patient was admitted March 22nd and only a few dedicated health workers remained, and are currently working on isolated and confirmed cases.

Patient Zero is a 36-year- old Ugandan male who arrived from United Arab Emirates on March 21 and was later found to be positive  for COVID-19.

Dr. Muwanga said treating patient zero and others  have been a traumatic experience but also an opportunity for health workers to learn.

“The Index Case knew being tested positive was the end of the world, but we assured him there is hope, he could be cured. He must be extremely happy now,” Dr Muwanga said.

Entebbe hospital has been treating 30 of the 53 confirmed cases in Uganda. Dr. Moses Muwanga noted that the patients have been taken care of by a team of senior health workers.

The Index Case and three other patients who have since  recovered from the Coronavirus disease-COVID-19  were discharged on Saturday afternoon from  Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital.

They was discharged after testing negative for COVID-19 twice in the last two days.

Prime Minister Dr Rugunda, who presided over the send-off of the recovered patients, hailed the medical workers. ” It is great they have been able to carefully look after themselves, and are all negative. By looking after yourself first, you are able to look after your patients.”

He added that the hospital is proving that it will “become a centre of excellence in COVID-19 management”

The recovered patients have  spent at least  21 days in hospital. Fifteen others,  including seven at Entebbe hospital, are ready for discharge but the ministry is still still preparing their communities to receive them.

Uganda discharges former COVID-19 patients. PM Rugunda at the function also attended by hospital staff 📷 @bamulanzeki

No interviews

Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng told the media that the individuals asked not to be discharged in public view and have also refused to be interviewed by the press.

Aceng however says they have been cooperative, undergone counseling and their communities and families are ready to receive them.

Aceng says 15 other patients have recovered and will only be discharged after their communities have been sensitised and are willing to receive them at home.

She also commended the hospital management, medical and surveillance teams for supporting the recovery process of the three patients and the other 27 confirmed cases still at the hospital.

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As at April 12, Uganda has had 54 confirmed cases, and no death.

The Director General Health Services, Dr. Henry Mwebesa allayed the fears of the community that recovered patients could infect them, saying theu were discharged from  hospital after  following certain procedures.

First,  samples are tested in 24 hour intervals and once there are two consecutive negative results, a patient is deemed as having recovered from COVID-19. They are also required to take certain medicine and prevent themselves from  reinfection.

The World Health Country Representative, Dr. Yonas Tegegn auded Uganda for discharging it’s first three recovered patients and Patient Zero, and said everyone must do their part to ensure there are no deaths.

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