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Nearly 200 health workers infected with COVID-19 in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda’s battle against Covid-19 gets more complicated as the deadly virus is harvesting the very people at the forefront of fighting it–the doctors. The 192 doctors already hit by the virus represent 4% of the five thousand Ugandans who have so far tested positive which is an excessively disproportionate infection rate in the country where one doctor serves over ten thousand people.

The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) disclosed on Tuesday that most of the affected health workers infection is traced directly back to health facilities where they work.

Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary general of UMA says the information they have gathered as an association shows that majority of their infected colleagues have got the virus in the line of duty.

Dr Richard Idro, the president of the Uganda Medical Association says that from the information they have, even their members working in non-COVID designated health facilities have been infected.

“With the spread of community infections, many health workers are interacting with people in communities who are sick but do not show any sign, only to end up infected later. Three out of the four deaths of health workers that have been reported are health workers who worked in areas not designated to treat COVID. They were theater staff,” Dr Idro said.

A total of 5,123 cases of COVID-19 with 58 deaths have been reported. With community transmissions on the rise, Idro says health workers need protection now more than ever.

With the right personal protective equipment– gloves, masks, and disposable medical gowns, health workers should be ideally better protected when it comes to COVID-19 especially in the hospital setting. According to the health ministry, over 11 billion shillings has been spent on procuring PPE for health workers to ensure that they are protected.

However, even with such money spent, some health workers to date claim that they are not adequately protected.

Maureen Tumwesige an intern doctor at a COVID-19 treatment facility says that they have not been provided any PPE for the last two months. She says that with her colleagues, they have been forced to meet the cost of making sure they are protected.

“I work in the area of the COVID-19 patients but we have not been given anything,” she said. “We do not even get masks. There are times when we have been forced to work with no PPE. Its a miracle we are still alive. Its only God protecting us!”

Similarly, Idro says that in many hospitals, PPE is allocated to COVID-19 wards while other departments are left with almost nothing. This he says is a danger.

Uganda’s scenario is slightly different from that reported by the World Health Organisation. A report recently published by the UN health agency showed that most health workers were infected from communities outside of hospitals.

Dr Henry Kajumbura, the dean of Makerere University School of Public Health and also the chair of the COVID-19 Infection and Biology Committee says as of now, it is not clear where health workers are being infected from.

“We are not sure where the infections are taking place but the ministry of health is investigating the source. However it is important to note that infection of workers in COVID treatment units is currently very minimal. It is possible that many are being infected in communities as well,” Dr Kajumbura said.

The head of clinical services at the health ministry, Dr Charles Olaro says they are working towards training health workers on infection control and prevention in hospitals. He says they are also training health cadres including Village Health Teams on how to identify COVID-19 cases to enable them carry out the necessary measures to protect themselves from being infected with the disease.

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