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Unreliable ambulance services take toll on Covid-19 response in Acholi

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The COVID-19 task forces in Acholi have expressed concern about the unreliable ambulance services that are affecting timely care delivery to patients in the region.

Some of the ambulances have broken down due to mechanical conditions and require huge budgets to repair and maintain.

Apart from the lack of ambulances, the task forces have also disclosed that their efforts and care responses are also being frustrated by a lack of logistical support like fuel and allowances for the drivers and nurses attached to the emergency ambulance responses.

Yoweri Idiba, the acting District Health Officer for Gulu City revealed that they have only one ambulance attached to the Regional Referral Hospital. The same ambulance services are used by patients in neighbouring districts of Omoro, Amuru and Nwoya to evacuate patients amid resource constraints.

Amuru District Health Officer, Dr Patrick Odong Olwedo says that the only ambulance they use is stationed at Elegu township, at the Uganda-South Sudan border, which is over 140 kilometres away.

Dr Olwedo explains that the ambulance is also not useful due to lack of fuel and allowances to facilitate the medical staff attached to it to respond to any emergencies in the district.

In neighbouring Omoro, Peter Douglas Okello, the district LC V chairperson revealed that the only ambulance they have was donated by the area MP, Jacob Oulanyah and is grounded due to mechanical conditions.

Okello says the district is faced with an uphill task to refer patients in critical condition to Gulu and now relies on one other ambulance that belongs to a non-governmental organization that also serves neighbouring Pader, Nwoya and Gulu on a rotational basis.

Due to the surge in COVID-19 transmissions, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital treatment unit has recorded 11 cumulative deaths between May and June from 734 confirmed cases. Of those, 241 patients are being treated under a home-based care system.

In August 2020, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine revealed that due to the lack of sufficient ambulance services in the country, many Ugandans are still prone to avoidable deaths.

She added that the country has up to only 201 ambulance fleets and more than 160 others were needed to improve care delivery.

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