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Uganda’s health system overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases- Experts

COVID-19 patient receiving treatment in a health facility. File photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda’s health system is unable to treat all confirmed Covid-19 cases, epidemiologists have observed. Uganda’s position has been to admit Covid-19 patients in facilities spread across the country for treatment.

The available 1,300 hospital beds are no longer sufficient to handle the rising COVID-19 cases. On average, about 100 cases are confirmed each day. There were 3,870 active cases as of Tuesday afternoon that need medical attention.

However, only less than half of the cases have been admitted for treatment. Another 1,000 cases are being monitored at Namboole stadium which means about 1,570 positive cases are in their homes found in communities.

Dr Monica Musenero, an epidemiologist and senior presidential advisor on epidemics says with the increase in community infections, the country’s health system cannot take in all cases. She says unlike at the start of the epidemic when truck drivers were the major source of infection and could be controlled, it’s impossible to control community infections.

She says the country prepared 1,300 beds to handle COVID-19 cases at any one time. She however says that with only 2,731 recoveries out of 6,468 reported cases, this means over 2,000 positive cases are either at home or in private health facilities. Musenero says both the country’s ability to admit and even carry out real-time PCR testing of the disease has decreased as cases continue rising.

With such figures, Musenero says people need to adhere to the public health measures of wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding crowds because acquiring the disease right now means staying home without care. “This is not the right time to fall sick. Getting a hospital bed might take you days. There are so many sick people in their homes because they cannot access treatment. Some of them are moderate cases that can easily become severe,” she said.

Last week, due to the increase in community cases, the Health Ministry decided to start transporting patients from other parts of the country to Namboole stadium due to space constraints. With a capacity of 1,500 beds, Musenero says the facility is not enough. “Right now, the ministry is trying to create more space at Namboole but even that will not be enough. We are reporting 200 cases every day. Even the beds there will not help the situation,” she said.

Dr Charles Olaro, the head of clinical services in the Health Ministry says they are working towards increasing the bed capacity in the country. “There are some people still in the community but we are working on creating more space to be able to pick them up. We are also looking at bringing on auxiliary centres like hotels where patients who can afford to pay for comfort can go. This will leave some beds empty,” Olaro said.

Uganda Medical Association has been urging the government to consider home care for positive asymptomatic patients so that hospitals can be left for moderate and severe patients. However, health ministry officials have been reluctant to approve home care saying it would be hard to manage cases from their homes.

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One comment

  1. Then due to the obvious limited resources, Govt should follow the recommendation of the Uganda Medical Association of testing & treating/hospitalizing only symptomatic patients while the asymptomatic people should remain at home were they will be monitored by Village Health Teams.

    Otherwise Covid-19 could generally be handled like other diseases like malaria, STDs, etc were people receive medical attention only after showing signs & symptoms.

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