Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Medical workers at Kitgum general hospital are rationing the distribution of artesunate, one of the essential drugs used as the first-line treatment for severe malaria. This comes amidst a shortage of drugs at the hospital despite soaring cases of malaria within Kitgum and surrounding districts in East Acholi.
Bezy Omoya, the senior administrator Kitgum general hospital told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the hospital has for the last three cycles been faced with under supply of drugs and other medical supplies.
Omoya says they recently requisitioned various drugs and supplies from the National Medical Stores but only received 70 percent. For instance, only 1500 ampoules of artesunate out of the 4,000 ordered for were delivered.
Omoya says the quantity of drugs supplied is insufficient to cater for the two months period budgeted. He says that they now resorted to issuing the medicine to medics for only treating severe cases of malaria. He notes some of the patients who should have been initially given artesunate injections are put on the second regiment to save the stock of artesunate.
Bulk cases of admissions and outpatient visits at Kitgum general hospital are mostly patients suffering from mild or severe malaria. The majority are children below five years and expectant mothers. Statistics from the hospital records department shows that 286 patients tested positive for malaria in January this year and ten deaths registered.
Out of the 286 patients, 127 and three deaths were registered among children below five years. Omoya says they expect malaria cases to increase towards the rainy season but expressed worry over its management at the hospital because of the inadequate first line treatment.
He says that besides inadequate supply of drugs and supplies such as x-ray films which haven’t been supplied in six months now, sanitizers, surgical gloves and detergents have left them on their knees because of the current budget cuts. Kitgum general hospital has been receiving Shillings 72 million from the government for running the facility.
However, government cut their budget for this quarter from Shillings 98 million to Shillings 76 million. Omoya says the budget cut means the hospital which currently runs a 254 bed capacity with limited manpower will have to adjust its budget on providing some of the essential services.
A nurse in the children ward at Kitgum general hospital who preferred anonymity since she is not authorized to speak to the media says despite a decline in malaria cases, restriction on the use of artesunate will have effects on malaria treatment.
She says they expect to register a surge in malaria cases in the coming days owing to the return of the rainy season and urged for the considerate supply of the life-saving malarial drug. “At the moment, we are not having high cases of malaria but during a surge, we demand many dosages of artesunate. Sometimes a box containing 100 vials of artesunate doesn’t last more than two days,” she said.
But Rogers Edward Ochan, the regional representative of NMS at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital says the supply was made in line with the hospital’s requisition order. Ochan notes that NMS has consistently supplied what has been requested for by respective health facilities, adding that for excess quantities of drugs, the hospital’s in charge have always been asked to put written explanations to justify their demands.
Kitgum general hospital has had intermittent and inadequate supply of essential medicines and medical supplies for the last six months, a move the hospital administration says greatly affected health service delivery. The facility serves the entire region of East Acholi and sometimes South Sudanese refugees in Lamwo district.