Kiruddu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kiruddu General Hospital has registered a surge in the number of patients with alcohol related illnesses because of the lockdown which started in March 2020. Despite the closure of pubs, doctors at Kiruddu General Hospital say there is an increase in the number of patients suffering from alcohol poisoning and alcohol related illnesses.
Patients suffering from alcohol related diseases are treated in the GI Unit. Prior to the lockdown, the unit would attend to 10 patients on average each day. However, the hospital has been forced to send patients suffering from alcohol related complications to other units because of the high numbers.
The hospital has also increased the number of beds for patients with alcohol related illnesses to more than 40. Dr. Charles Kabugo, the Executive Director Kiruddu General Hospital attributes the surge in the number of patients to alcohol abuse.
He says instead of using the lockdown to do constructive things, several people have resorted to drinking to pass time. “We had closed outpatient clinics and were only expecting patients with serious illnesses like kidney failure and diabetes. We did not expect the surge in alcohol related illnesses. People are just spending their days drinking it seems and government will have to spend money to treat some of these complications that could have been avoided,” Dr. Kabugo said.
A 2016 World Health Organisation Alcohol consumption report shows that Uganda has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption rates in sub-Saharan Africa standing at 26 liters of pure alcohol consumed among males and females on average. Alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, alcohol addiction, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, immune system dysfunction, brain damage and malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.
Dr. Juliet Nakku, the Deputy Executive Director Butabiika National Referral Mental Hospital which also treats alcohol addicts says alcohol abuse normally occurs when people break off from office. “Even during the holiday season, we see a number is cases reported. Alcohol abuse is generally on the increase,” Dr. Nakku said.
Butabika hospital normally receives more than 350 new patients in the alcohol unit annually. The patients are treated with a combination of therapy and medication. However, the chances of relapse are high when they return home. Dr. Ian Kiggundu, a doctor at CoRSU-a private rehabilitation facility attributes the high dependency that people have to alcohol to the availability of cheap alcoholic spirits on the market.
“Alcohol is so cheap these days. In some places, all one needs is Shillings 5000 to feel happy. With shops selling alcohol closed even during lockdown does not mean people could not have access. If anything, people who used to drink one kavera are likely to have graduated to two or three due to the stress of being forced to remain at home. Many people think alcohol makes life better and after being home for almost 10 weeks, easily accessible waragi was the perfect feel good pill that many people needed,” Dr. Kiggundu said.