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Namboole COVID-19 treatment facility lacks beds

The national stadium with a sitting capacity of over 45,000 people needs to be fitted with beds and mattresses before patients admitted there

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Mandela National Stadium isn’t ready to receive COVID-19 patients due to lack of beds and mattresses. According to the Ministry of Health ministry, the sports facility that has the capacity to host 1,200 beds is not ready for use as a treatment site as had been communicated by government on Tuesday.  

While the stadium has been fitted with oxygen facilities, there are neither beds nor mattresses in the halls that have been prepared to host the patients. Our reporter visited the stadium on Wednesday and saw cleaners busy at work.   

Dr. Charles Olaro, the Director Clinical Services in Ministry of Health told URN that they hope the facility will be ready to start receiving patients on Friday.

“Today a site visit was carried out and the facility is ready for use. The only thing missing are beds that are expected to arrive in the country in time for the scheduled opening of the treatment facility,” he said. 

According to Dr. Olaro, the beds are expected to enter the country at any moment from Mombasa port. Namboole stadium has until recently been hosting returnees under quarantine. 

All beds and mattresses that were used by the returnees were returned to Mulago National Referral Hospital at the end of their 14 days’ mandatory institutional quarantine. Once opened as a treatment center, Namboole stadium will be managed by staff from Kiruddu hospital.   

When asked about the capacity and experience of Kiruddu Hospital staff to handle Covid19 cases, Dr. Olaro assured URN that they have been trained. “They will be handling asymptomatic cases that do not need complicated care. The moderate and severe cases will be sent to Mulago hospital,” he explained.

The Nambole facility is supposed to reduce on congestion at Mulago National Referral Hospital and Naguru General Hospital. As of Wednesday, Mulago Hospital was left with 133 beds out of the 400 bed available while Naguru was filled to capacity.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Senior Public Relations Officer, says that it is hightime that Namboole is opened. “The number of positive cases is rising and yet the treatment facilities within Kampala and Wakiso that are registering the highest cases of COVID-19 are almost reaching maximum capacity. We need the extra space,” Ainebyoona said.

As of Wednesday, Uganda had over 1,500 active COVID-19 cases undergoing treatment. 80 percent of these are asymptomatic patients with mild forms of the disease. Some health professionals are advocating for a change in policy so that asymptomatic patients can receive care in the comfort of their homes to avoid overcrowding.

However health officials are reluctant to follow this case management system that is being used in countries such as the UK and U.S where only severe cases are treated in hospitals.

Dr. Olaro says as of now, government will continue to isolate or treat all COVID-19 patients in treatment facilities because controlling their movements would be next to possible if they are left in their homes.

“In countries where this method has been used, we have seen a big surge in numbers. It’s hard to control positive cases when they are home and can easily interact with people. We have more than enough space at Nambole stadium and can even put tents in the field if the halls fill up,” Olaro said.

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