Covid-19 patient who filmed 'appalling' treatment centre under probe, says RDC

Thursday July 02 2020

An asymptomatic nurse, who on behalf of other patients recorded a video denouncing the horrid state of an isolation ward at Masaka regional referral hospital is under investigation.

Security authorities in Masaka District said they had launched investigations to establish her motive to record a video that went viral on social media, the district Coronavirus task force chairperson, Mr Herman Ssentongo, has said.
Mr Ssentongo who is also the Masaka RDC told journalists on Thursday that Ms Mary Aliona, a former nurse who recorded the video which he says was full of falsehoods is had “a hidden agenda” which they are yet to establish because what features in the video aims at frustrating the efforts of the health workers at the treatment centre.
He said they are yet to find out how Ms Aliona ended up in Kyotera where she was picked from yet it is currently under virus-induced lockdown with no vehicles are allowed to move.

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  • Covid-19: Anger as government dismisses Masaka video

    Wednesday July 01 2020

    home006 pix

    A section of the public took to social media yesterday, criticising the Ministry of Health officials for looking on when hospitals abuse the rights of Covid-19 patients.
    Trouble started after ministry officials dismissed details in a video recorded by a asymptomatic nurse, who on behalf of other patients, denounced the horrid state of an isolation ward at Masaka hospital.
    The public accuses the ministry of refuting the claims instead of attending to the situation.

    A one Blessings Geokel tweeted: “Stop playing the defence game, please take off your knees from our necks, Mama, we can’t breathe!”
    On Sunday, Ms Mary Aliona, a Covid-19 asymptomatic patient, admitted to Masaka hospital, asked government for help following the facility’s sorry state.
    Ms Aliona claimed the hospital does not have running water, garbage bins and lacks antiseptics to clean toilets, among other concerns.

    READ:

    • Mother narrowly survives as hospital ward ceiling collapses

      Wednesday July 01 2020

      reg01pix

      Last week, part of a ceiling board collapsed on mothers at a labour ward at Aromo Health Centre III in Lira District, prompting the authorities to shut down the maternity ward.

      The ward, constructed with support from Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR), has never been rehabilitated since its establishment in 2007.

      That fateful Wednesday night, Ms Esther Ajok, a resident of Oketkwer Village in Aromo Sub-county, was already on the delivery bed eagerly waiting to bring her second child into the world.

      No sooner had the midwife moved out to pick up a plastic basin than the ceiling board collapsed, narrowly missing Ms Ajok.

      “I heard the ceiling board crack from above, and the debris started falling on me. I immediately fell down and crawled towards the door,” she told Daily Monitor after the incident.

      Indeed, Ms Ajok was just lucky. The broken ceiling board then hit the delivery bed she was lying on.
      She was immediately transferred to Lira Regional Referral Hospital, about 30 kilometres away – where she gave birth to a baby boy.

      Ms Betty Akello, an enrolled midwife at Aromo Health Centre, said the doctor had already dressed up to attend to the patients when the ceiling board collapsed.
      “All patients hid under their beds fearing that the whole building could collapse on them,” she said on Monday.

      “And very early in the morning, we had to disperse everybody and lock the maternity ward,” she added.
      Currently, all the mothers going to deliver at Aromo Health Centre III are being referred to Ogur Health Centre IV, about 12 kilometres away from the government health centre.

      “I have been here directing them [expectant mothers] where to go because I cannot assist them,” she said.
      Mr Robert Odongo, a member of Aromo Health Unit Management Committee, acknowledged that their health centre does not offer quality services.

      “First and foremost, members of the community are stealing property because the facility is not fenced. Secondly, we also don’t have an outpatient department,” he said.

      Mr David Elich Okello, the Aromo Sub-county chairperson, said in 2017, the sub-county allocated Shs16 million towards the renovation of their maternity ward.
      The district leaders reportedly gave the contract to some company to renovate the facility but the work was not completed.

      “We have been facing a lot of challenges and we have been reporting them to other higher authorities but no action is being taken,” Mr Okello said on Monday.
      “As I talk now, we don’t have anywhere to admit women who are coming for delivery. Expectant mothers are now being referred to Ogur Health Centre IV, which is very far from here,” he added.

      The challenges being experienced at Aromo Health Centre III almost cut across the entire Lango sub-region.
      In Apac District, Apoi Health Centre III in Akokoro Sub-county was recently temporarily shut down following a misunderstanding between health workers and the patients.

      Health workers have reportedly laid down their tools after some members of the community allegedly threatened to harm them.

      Trouble started when a member of the community, who was reportedly armed with machete, went to the health facility and threatened to cut health workers. The angry father accused the health workers of refusing to attend to his sick child, who was suffering from malaria.

      Mr Joel Ewany, the officer-in-charge of the health centre, said they decided to close the facility on June 15 since health workers were living in fear following that disturbing episode.

      “That man came with his son then he said he had brought a patient. We were in a staff meeting and I told him to sit and wait but he disappeared, only to return after a short while with a machete (panga),” Mr Ewany said.
      “I then pleaded with him, his son was tested and was found to be having malaria. We gave him antimalarial and he later disappeared.”

      Mr Ewany said Apoi Health Centre III is unsecured. “Some of our staff who reside in grass-thatched houses became so scared that day,” he said.

      However, members of the community accused the health workers at the facility of laziness. They also said the service providers lack the willingness to serve the vulnerable community.

      Mr Isaac Otim, a resident of Onyany Village in Apoi Parish, said he recently went to the health facility but he was not attended to.

      “It was at around 11am but there was no health worker at the facility. I followed them to the staff quarters and I found a nurse cooking. She told me to go back and wait but when she came, she told me there was no medicine,” he said.

      Mr Alfred Ogwang, another resident, said he lost a child last year after health workers at the facility delayed to attend to his expectant wife.

      “I took my wife to deliver at the health centre but we spent three days without being attended to,” he said.
      “I then took her to Akokoro Health Centre III, where she was attended to immediately we arrived. She delivered but unfortunately, the baby died shortly,” he added.

      Dr Mathew Emer, the Apac District health officer, said they held a meeting last week with the aggrieved health workers at Apoi Health Centre in an attempt to iron out the issue.
      Background
      The escape
      I heard the ceiling board crack from above, and the debris started falling on me. I immediately fell down and crawled towards the door,” Ms Esther Ajok, survivor.

      editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

    • Mary Aliona, a detainee at Masaka Hospital, is a heroine, not a villain

      Tuesday June 30 2020


      Dear Tingasiga;
      A lady called Mary Aliona finds herself in the midst of a storm that is not her doing. By recording and releasing a video of the extremely appalling conditions in which she and others are being held at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, she has incurred the wrath of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uganda.
      In case you missed the entire episode, Ms Aliona, a Ugandan woman with no symptoms of disease, was admitted to Masaka Hospital because she had tested positive for the new Coronavirus.

      This healthy carrier of the virus joined several other women and children in a facility that she describes as having been previously abandoned.

      Ms Aliona, who reports that she is a former nurse herself, speaks very respectfully, very clearly and with an urgency that gives voice to what is obvious to the eye. After showing us the interior of the ward, she reports that the medical staff are afraid of the inmates and that their medicines are unlabelled and are dispensed to the patients with no explanation.

      She alleges that they have no antiseptics to clean the toilets, there is no running water, the toilets are unflushed and that there are no garbage bins. The video shows children and adults in the ward. Whether or not the children themselves carry the virus is not stated. “We feel neglected,” she states. “We are like corpses.”

      There is garbage strewn all over the place, a potential source of infections that may be more lethal than the new coronavirus.

      “There are some animals that sleep in better conditions than we are right now,” she reports, adding that there is a mortuary and a cemetery next to their ward. Ms Aliona rightly observes that that alone is a source of mental distress. She invites the President to go to Masaka Hospital and check it out himself.

      Without the benefit of a proper audit of the care that the inmates have been receiving, one is not in position to comment on that aspect of Ms Aliona’s report. However, there are a number of things that invite censure even without the benefit of a physical visit to the facility.

      First, admitting symptom-free carriers does not make sense at all. It is a waste of the country’s very limited healthcare resources on non-patients. The limited resources should be saved and used to treat real patients, the vast majority of whom are afflicted with non-Covid-19 illnesses.

      Second, mixing children, who are presumably virus-free, with infected adults is unconscionable malpractice. Children are susceptible to Covid-19, with some of them at risk for very devastating illness.

      Third, whereas symptom-free carriers should self-isolate in their homes, one appreciates the difficulty of achieving that in a society where multiple people sharing a house is the norm.
      One also understands the concern about symptom-free carriers sneaking out of their homes or receiving healthy visitors. The solution to this is to quarantine these individuals in clean facilities, such as hotels that offer self-contained single rooms.

      The cost of such hotel accommodation can be easily met by the financial war-chest that has been allocated to the fight against Covid-19. It is this sort of consideration that we have been advocating in our appeal to the government to shift priorities from paying money to politicians for their pretentious role in fighting Covid-19, to the real frontline needs of the effort.

      Fourth, in response to Ms Aliona’s report, the Ministry of Health has stated that the facility in the video “was used as an emergency measure as the hospital expands its bed capacity to more than 50 to accommodate more patients.” In fact, the filthy state of the environment in which these inmates are detained is utterly unacceptable.

      A place like that must never be used for human habitation, not even as a temporary holding facility for 10 minutes. It poses greater risk to the health of the inmates and the staff than the new coronavirus does. Everything about it goes against the most elementary concepts of hygiene and public health.

      After seeing the environment in which Aliona and her fellow inmates are being held, I have no reason to doubt her other allegations about the care they are receiving. One would have expected the Ministry of Health to gratefully acknowledge her evidence-based report, take immediate measures to evacuate the inmates from the filthy environment and ensure corrective measures to provide the detainees with care that meets the minimum standards of good medical practice.

      Instead of welcoming her patriotic act of raising an alarm about what are obviously very dangerously substandard conditions, the Ministry’s public relations machine has gone into overdrive in a campaign to paint her a villain.

      This, of course, is a self-indictment by the Ministry. Defensive reactions in the face of criticism is a typical characteristic of a dysfunctional organisation.

      One struggles to find the right words to describe how unacceptable the Ministry’s attitude is. Instead of acknowledging the substandard conditions that are clearly evident in the video, the Ministry of Health breaks patient confidentiality by telling us how Ms Aliona ended up under their care.

      Over the last three months, President Yoweri Museveni and his ministers of Health, have earned well-deserved respect for the way they have handled a potentially dangerous situation for which the country was very ill-prepared.

      No doubt they have made a number of serious errors, among them the usual financial wheeling and dealing, the suspicious awards of contracts and poor delivery of promised services like food and masks. However, I, for one, have been impressed by the President’s uncharacteristic deference to the medical professionals in a potentially serious crisis.

      Unfortunately, his government’s reaction to Ms Aliona’s report has exposed the truth that whereas the top leadership has been saying the right things, the rot underneath remains unchecked. Their well-earned reputation has been shredded with the ease of ripping up a piece of paper. They have undermined public confidence.

      A presidential visit to Masaka Hospital, an apology to Ms Aliona and her fellow inmates, and a directive and funding for immediate remediation of the dangerous conditions in which patients are being nursed at Masaka and elsewhere may help repair the damage.
      muniini@mulerasfireplace.com


    “The reason I am recording this video is to explain the conditions we are under at this hospital, they are really horrible. We rarely see doctors, [They]get here once to just drop medication that has no name. A doctor did not even explain [to me] what kind of medication this is, and as a former nurse, I do not want to take medication that I don’t know,” Ms Aliona said.

    “This is a section that had been abandoned many years ago, and I think when Covid-19 came into existence, they just created an emergency ward. If we are really Covid-19 patients as they said, why can’t they give us at least jik to clean our toilets, and brooms so that we can be assured for our safety?” she added.
    However, the Health ministry says the ward captured in the video has functional electrical and water system and all patients on isolation are given sufficient meals and water.

    “The patients will be transferred to a well-furnished main ward as soon as the renovation works are completed…, Contrary to the allegations in the video, the medical workers check on patients regularly. From time to time, the medical staff guide patients on their prescribed medication,” a press statement reads in part.
    “The structure captured in the patients video was used as an emergency measure as the hospital expands its bed capacity to more than 50 to accommodate more patients,” the statement adds.

    Dr Diana Atwine, the Health Permanent Secretary, yesterday tweeted: “I think we need to appreciate that Covid-19 came in emergency mode. We did not have any dedicated wards for Covid patients so [we] improvised with available infrastructure for overwhelming numbers like for Masaka.”
    The ministry said Ms Aliona tested positive for Covid-19 at Mutukula border point.

  • Mary Aliona, a detainee at Masaka Hospital, is a heroine, not a villain

    Tuesday June 30 2020


    Dear Tingasiga;
    A lady called Mary Aliona finds herself in the midst of a storm that is not her doing. By recording and releasing a video of the extremely appalling conditions in which she and others are being held at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, she has incurred the wrath of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uganda.
    In case you missed the entire episode, Ms Aliona, a Ugandan woman with no symptoms of disease, was admitted to Masaka Hospital because she had tested positive for the new Coronavirus.

    This healthy carrier of the virus joined several other women and children in a facility that she describes as having been previously abandoned.

    Ms Aliona, who reports that she is a former nurse herself, speaks very respectfully, very clearly and with an urgency that gives voice to what is obvious to the eye. After showing us the interior of the ward, she reports that the medical staff are afraid of the inmates and that their medicines are unlabelled and are dispensed to the patients with no explanation.

    She alleges that they have no antiseptics to clean the toilets, there is no running water, the toilets are unflushed and that there are no garbage bins. The video shows children and adults in the ward. Whether or not the children themselves carry the virus is not stated. “We feel neglected,” she states. “We are like corpses.”

    There is garbage strewn all over the place, a potential source of infections that may be more lethal than the new coronavirus.

    “There are some animals that sleep in better conditions than we are right now,” she reports, adding that there is a mortuary and a cemetery next to their ward. Ms Aliona rightly observes that that alone is a source of mental distress. She invites the President to go to Masaka Hospital and check it out himself.

    Without the benefit of a proper audit of the care that the inmates have been receiving, one is not in position to comment on that aspect of Ms Aliona’s report. However, there are a number of things that invite censure even without the benefit of a physical visit to the facility.

    First, admitting symptom-free carriers does not make sense at all. It is a waste of the country’s very limited healthcare resources on non-patients. The limited resources should be saved and used to treat real patients, the vast majority of whom are afflicted with non-Covid-19 illnesses.

    Second, mixing children, who are presumably virus-free, with infected adults is unconscionable malpractice. Children are susceptible to Covid-19, with some of them at risk for very devastating illness.

    Third, whereas symptom-free carriers should self-isolate in their homes, one appreciates the difficulty of achieving that in a society where multiple people sharing a house is the norm.
    One also understands the concern about symptom-free carriers sneaking out of their homes or receiving healthy visitors. The solution to this is to quarantine these individuals in clean facilities, such as hotels that offer self-contained single rooms.

    The cost of such hotel accommodation can be easily met by the financial war-chest that has been allocated to the fight against Covid-19. It is this sort of consideration that we have been advocating in our appeal to the government to shift priorities from paying money to politicians for their pretentious role in fighting Covid-19, to the real frontline needs of the effort.

    Fourth, in response to Ms Aliona’s report, the Ministry of Health has stated that the facility in the video “was used as an emergency measure as the hospital expands its bed capacity to more than 50 to accommodate more patients.” In fact, the filthy state of the environment in which these inmates are detained is utterly unacceptable.

    A place like that must never be used for human habitation, not even as a temporary holding facility for 10 minutes. It poses greater risk to the health of the inmates and the staff than the new coronavirus does. Everything about it goes against the most elementary concepts of hygiene and public health.

    After seeing the environment in which Aliona and her fellow inmates are being held, I have no reason to doubt her other allegations about the care they are receiving. One would have expected the Ministry of Health to gratefully acknowledge her evidence-based report, take immediate measures to evacuate the inmates from the filthy environment and ensure corrective measures to provide the detainees with care that meets the minimum standards of good medical practice.

    Instead of welcoming her patriotic act of raising an alarm about what are obviously very dangerously substandard conditions, the Ministry’s public relations machine has gone into overdrive in a campaign to paint her a villain.

    This, of course, is a self-indictment by the Ministry. Defensive reactions in the face of criticism is a typical characteristic of a dysfunctional organisation.

    One struggles to find the right words to describe how unacceptable the Ministry’s attitude is. Instead of acknowledging the substandard conditions that are clearly evident in the video, the Ministry of Health breaks patient confidentiality by telling us how Ms Aliona ended up under their care.

    Over the last three months, President Yoweri Museveni and his ministers of Health, have earned well-deserved respect for the way they have handled a potentially dangerous situation for which the country was very ill-prepared.

    No doubt they have made a number of serious errors, among them the usual financial wheeling and dealing, the suspicious awards of contracts and poor delivery of promised services like food and masks. However, I, for one, have been impressed by the President’s uncharacteristic deference to the medical professionals in a potentially serious crisis.

    Unfortunately, his government’s reaction to Ms Aliona’s report has exposed the truth that whereas the top leadership has been saying the right things, the rot underneath remains unchecked. Their well-earned reputation has been shredded with the ease of ripping up a piece of paper. They have undermined public confidence.

    A presidential visit to Masaka Hospital, an apology to Ms Aliona and her fellow inmates, and a directive and funding for immediate remediation of the dangerous conditions in which patients are being nursed at Masaka and elsewhere may help repair the damage.
    muniini@mulerasfireplace.com

“We have intelligence information that she was trying to get out of the country to go to Tanzania through Mutukula, so as to proceed with her journey to South Korea but we all know Mutukula and Kyotera are under total lockdown being near the border. We have started to investigate how she got there and whom she travelled with to Mutukula," Mr Ssentongo said.
Dr Mark Jjuko, the in charge of Masaka regional covid-19 treatment centre said one of the children seen in the patients’ ward as depicted in the video belongs to one of the patients, a single mother who had no one else to leave her child with after she was admitted.
“We have handled several patients with children especially those that don’t have relatives to take care of their children at home. We take them (Patients and children) through safety precaution measures and they have all lived well and no one, including those that we have been discharged before has ever tested positive,” he said.

He said the wards are not congested as alleged by the patient because they )health officials) follow directives of the ministry of health and World Health Organization’s standards as far as bed spacing in treatment wards is concerned.
Masaka hospital director, Dr Nathan Onyachi has asked the health workers at the treatment not to be demoralized by the ratings of the patients but stay committed to their job.
“We made a temporally extension of a treatment ward as we are working on where the patients can be treated. We have received a 40-bed capacity tent which is going to be put up to address such complaints. We appreciate the fact that the building where the treatment extension was put but the wards are always clean,” he added.
Masaka hospital covid-19 treatment centre has so far discharged 47 people since the treatment centre was established. It currently has about 30 patients that are undergoing treatment.

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