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Why COVID-19 patients are taking longer to recover

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Patients that are currently receiving treatment for COVID-19 are spending an average of 20-days in hospitals, according to physicians. Previously, patients would spend at least 15-days in a hospital to heal from moderate to severe cases of the disease.

But according to clinicians, most people who are infected and hospitalised lately have severe forms of the disease that require longer hospital stays. 40-year-old Immaculate Kyeyune, a COVID-19 patient who was discharged from the hospital three weeks ago says she spent 25 days at the hospital and spent most of her time there on oxygen support.

“When I went I was suffering from shortness of breath. I was told I need support breathing and I was put on oxygen in the High Dependency Unit at Mulago. But then I worsened and was taken to the ICU where I was told I spent 10 days. After that I was taken back to the HDU for around six days before I was discharged,” she narrates.

Dr Rosemary Byanyiima, the Deputy Executive Director at Mulago National Referral Hospital says the patients are staying longer because they have severe forms of the disease that require longer stays. She says that after patients are weaned off oxygen, some of them need to be observed for a few days to make use that they can breathe on their own.

Dr Moses Muwanga, the director of Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital says that the severity of the disease now determines how long a patient is hospitalised.

“It is hard to determine how long a patient will be admitted. Before it would take between 14 to 18 days, but some of the current patients have spent more than a month at the hospital,” Muwanga says.

Dr Misaki Wayengera, the chair of the COVID-19 ministerial scientific task force says that the prolonged stay in hospitals is dependent on the variant causing the disease. Wayengera adds that the long hospital stays mean that the current hospital bed capacity will be insufficient to handle the increase in patients.

“One thing we have seen with the variants is that severely sick patients require more care. Many of them need oxygen and end up in the ICU, something that was not seen in the first wave when we were dealing with the original Wuhan virus,” Wayengera said.

There is a total of 475 high dependency unit beds in the entire country and 218 ICU beds. With the increasing number of reported cases, more than a quarter of them being hospitalised, doctors say, the country might soon run out of beds.

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