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‘Vaccinate to avoid high hospital bills’

FILE PHOTO: Japan will help Uganda secure facilities to store vaccines. PHOTO UNICEF MEDIA

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The outcry about high treatment charges for COVID-19 patients at private health facilities will not end, until a greater majority of Ugandans are vaccinated. Doctors in private hospitals in Kampala have warned that whoever is refusing to be vaccinated, will ultimately pay price when they end up admitted.

Lately private facilities like Medipal, Kampala International and Case Hospital among others have been accused of charging above normal services at their Intensive Care Units.

Some of the administrators of those hospitals say managing a COVID-19 patient under intensive care cannot be any cheaper, and they unanimously agree that the only way to avoid those high treatment cost is to have every Ugandan vaccinated.

The other alternative to let people get the disease for them to get natural immunity, in complicated, as there is no guarantee one will not acquire severe complication that would require intensive care in hospitals.

Medipal Hospital’s Medical Director, Richard Lukwandwa explains that while many have complained about the costs charged for services at Intensive Care and High Dependence Units, the reality is treating a person with COVID-19 is not cheap in terms of drugs, oxygen, equipment and specialists involved.

According Lukandwa, Medipal’s emergency unit handled 175 COVID-19 patients in the month of June alone. 159 of those got admitted while 28 were admitted at ICU and HDU.

An analysis by Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS-Uganda) showed that the daily rate for critically ill patients at Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions ranged between sh3million to Sh5 milion.

HEPS-Uganda also found that severely ill patients requiring High Dependence Unit (HDU) care paid between one to two million shillings per day and hospitalization for a two-week’s period required up to 100 million shillings.

Lukandwa says unfortunately even with such a huge expenditure, patients in Uganda like elsewhere in the world, still die.

“So the key message for this COVID-19 pandemic is each and every one of you need to highlight the importance of vaccination. Because we are not going to have very easy answers in terms of treatment. Because the COVID private providers are very few, and we are very stretched. And in the longer term insurance is very key” said Lukandwa

Value of Vaccination Against COVID-19

Rumours and myths surrounding Covid-19 vaccines have thrown some Ugandans into an abyss of fear and mistrust, yet studies shown that current vaccines appear to be effective enough to end the pandemic.

But because of rumors, it is emerging that many of those that succumbed to the disease, were vaccine hesitant.

Case Hospital Medical Director, Dr. Miriam Apiyo like her Medpal counterpart says only those that are fully vaccinated can survive serious complications leading to hospitalization at ICU and High Dependency units. She says unfortunately some of the healthcare providers who have ended up admitted, were found to have not been vaccinated.

Apiyo says at the height the COVID-19 wave last month, even the country’s referral hospitals were not able to sustain because all hospitals were full.

She says the recent wave leading to the outcry about charges exposed the regional referral hospitals.

“In this country as we talk, if we have sixty ventilators. Where are those ventilators? The biggest percentage are in the private sector. Why doesn’t the government have one…. Because almost every  district has a regional hospital,” asked Apiyo.

“Why do we think that despite the fact that those regional hospitals exist, there is only limited HDU care or ICU? “

Apiyo says  the absence of critical care at the regional referral hospitals, COVID-19 patients have flooded to already overstretched private providers.

“What I’m really saying is that let’s vaccinate and avoid those costs “said Apiyo

COVID-19 is still a threat to people who are unvaccinated says Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

Kaleebu urges whoever has not been vaccinated to get the two shots in the arm with Astrazeneca to protect themselves in case they get infected.

Professor Kaleebu, a Clinical immunologist and HIV/AIDS researcher says while the coronavirus may disappear within just 14 days or less, treating COVID-19 can be that expensive when hospitalized.

Professor Kaleebu says some people end up with  ongoing health problems several weeks or even longer after getting infected. He says there is evidence that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19. “

” There is nothing that we can do that can be 100%. But the world can not stay stagnant because there is COVID. I think vaccination is one way that world can start moving” said Professor Kaleebu.



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