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Mulago hospital visits shrink amidst COVID-19 scare

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Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Usually, at Stanfield, a children’s ward in Mulago National Referral Hospital, one has to carry an extra mat or a small mattress that can be easily placed in the often crowded corridors as there’s usually hardly any bed space in the 42-bed capacity ward.

But, not this time. A mother of a one-year-old who has been in and out of the facility since October when the baby started developing on and off undiagnosed fevers that often come with seizures says they have had over 35 beds to themselves since Saturday when they got admitted.  

While this comes off as a surprise to the mother, Dr David Nuwamanya, the Principal Hospital Administrator says this has been the trend which started in April when the lockdown to halt the further spread of COVID-19 was announced. He said they initially thought people couldn’t move because of the lockdown on public transport but even with the lifting the numbers of especially outpatients has generally dropped. 

For especially children, Dr Sabrina Kitaka a senior paediatrician at the hospital says the reasons for cuts in cases cannot be attributed to COVID-19 alone. She says that at Stanfield ward, for instance, the numbers of inpatients started dropping in June and on Thursday when she visited the ward, there were only three patients. 

This ward admits children with infectious diseases like Malaria, HIV related complications, fevers, neonatal bacteria infection and pneumonia.  Kitaka says the cut could be due to repeated hand washing as popularized during COVID-19 and effects of aggressive malaria prevention messages that have been going on in the media. 

She compares the situation at Stanfield with Jeliff or ward-11 also in Mulago which admits children with Non- Communicable Diseases. She says, there, the numbers are quite high with the renal and neurological side that admits those with kidney disease and epilepsy contributing 75 per cent of Intensive Care admissions.  

Her revelation speaks to statistics shared by Nuwamanya which show that in July alone, while Stanfield received 142 patients, Jeliff received 448. However, even with numbers of patients being low, Nuwamanya says most of the services that had been closed at the hospital have been re-opened even at the refurbished facility of lower Mulago. 

He says the radiology department, private outpatient wing, the Eye, Nose and Throat (ENT) section are all open with theatres re-opening next week.

For him, it’s only Block A that is supposed to house the super-specialized unit where tertiary procedures like organ transplants will be taking place that remains non-operational for now because they are the same areas used for COVID-19 treatment. 

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