Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 50 percent of all the COVID-19 patients admitted at Mulago Hospital’s intensive care unit-ICU succumb to the disease, according to medics at the facility.
According to records, the facility has lost at least 41 out of the 77 patients admitted with breathing difficulties. Dr Jane Nakibuuka, a senior consultant physician and head of the ICU at Mulago Hospital says that the numbers started surging at the end of August when admissions went up.
At the moment, there are 70 severe patients being treated on the high dependence unit COVID-19 treatment centre. The number of deaths from mid-September to date at times double those of discharged patients, with figures showing that 53.2 percent of all admitted patients at the hospital succumb to the disease.
“Initially the patients were very few but towards the end of August, the numbers significantly increased and we started registering high mortality. But we think it is not higher than what has been observed in other African countries,” she said, attributing the deaths to the lack of critical care resources like extracorporeal life support, access to dialysis, and material blood gases which are not available in many countries.
Dr Rose Byanyima, the Deputy Executive Director of Mulago Hospital and also the head of COVID-19 management at the hospital says the high number of deaths is not a surprise. She says that with high cases of severe forms of COVID-19, the more deaths occur.
According to Byanyima, the only way the high number of deaths can be reduced is through adhering to health preventive measures. “Prevent the infection. That is the only way. We keep on telling people to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash hands but people are just doing the opposite,” she said.
On the other hand, Dr Julie Harris, an epidemiologist with the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that the reason many people are dying even when they make it to hospitals cannot easily be explained.
“It is not easy to identify the cause of deaths. Certain situations like late referrals, delayed diagnosis, existing morbidities and the age of patients all play a role in the number of deaths being reported. In such a case, all health workers need to increase their index of suspicion. We want to think about COVID first and not last for all patients that present in a health facility especially if they have an existing condition,” she explains.
To date, 158 people have succumbed to the disease countrywide. According to scientists, this number is expected to rise due to the high rate of community infections.