Covid-19: Medics urge government to suspend surgeries

Wednesday March 25 2020

At work. Doctors perform surgery on a patient

At work. Doctors perform surgery on a patient at Mulago hospital in May 2017. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 


Medical doctors have recommended that non-emergency services in hospitals be suspended to reduce congestion and save on the supplies as they prepare to manage the spread of coronavirus.

Dr Richard Idro, the president of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), said elective surgeries can be suspended in both national and regional referral hospitals to create room and prevent infection in the face of highly infectious coronavirus.

“Elective surgeries and procedures in all referral hospitals be suspended with immediate effect. This will prevent overcrowding, reduce the risk of infection spread and conserve the available resources both supplies and human for when they will be needed most,” Dr Idro said in a statement yesterday.

The doctors also recommended that admitted patients with non-critical illness be discharged. Dr Idro said patients with mental illness at Butabika can be sent home.

But Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health, yesterday told Daily Monitor in an interview that the current situation does not warrant suspension of any hospital processes.

She explained that government already identified isolation centres at Entebbe Grade B Hospital and others, which they will use when coronavirus cases increase.


“We have already identified which ones we shall evacuate when the numbers increase. People must not forget that there are other sick people who die. The situation doesn’t yet warrant that. We follow World Health Organisation guidance,” Dr Aceng said.

“There is a certain number where you say no more elective surgery because you need the intensive care unit (ICU). Right now, our ICU is still empty. The numbers we are treating are all stable and well. We have no severe case,” she added.

The doctors also demanded urgent recruitment of more health workers in preparation for the coronavirus crisis.

They also expressed concern about the rising prices for sanitisers and warned the public against fake products that might not serve the purpose. The medical doctors warned the public against the use of chloroquine in the prevention of Covid-19, saying it is still under investigation.

Four-time presidential contestant Kizza Besigye tweeted that the areas the doctors identified depicted “serious gaps in basic areas that must be attended to urgently.”

Minister pleased

Meanwhile, the Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said members of the public have responded to her call and have been reporting suspected cases of coronavirus.

“The population has mobilised everybody who came from Dubai last week and brought them to me. They have done a good job. I did not have to look from far,” she said. The eight confirmed coronavirus cases had arrived from Dubai on March 20 and March 22 aboard the Emirates and Ethiopian airlines.