Hospital runs out of fuel to track Covid-19 patients

Monday April 6 2020

A health worker takes a nasal swab f

A health worker takes a nasal swab from a suspected covid-19 case at Masaka hospital on Friday. PHOTO BY ALI MAMBULE 


The management of Masaka Regional Referral Hospital has raised concern over lack of fuel to attend to emergencies in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

The hospital director, Dr Nathan Onyachi, said the hospital uses 200 litres of fuel per week to track down Dubai returnees and those suspected to be exposed to the deadly virus, however, the fuel got exhausted last Thursday.

“The campaign to fight Covid-19 has proved costly and our team has been following up contacts in distant areas such as Mutukula border post, which we cannot do now due to lack of fuel,” he said in an interview on Saturday.

He said the fuel they had was a donation from the Korean Foundation for International Health Care.
Dr Onyachi urged Members of Parliament (MP) in Masaka Sub-region, who purchased ambulances for their respective constituencies, to make them available with fuel.

“When they [MPs] do that, they will be supplementing our efforts to trace and evacuate suspected cases to the hospital. Even people who are not MPs need to support us in this fight against Covid-19,” he added.
Dr Onyachi commended the Uganda Red Cross Society for donating an ambulance to Masaka hospital to transport people to the isolation centre.

He said they have so far trained 27 laboratory technicians to pick nasal swab samples from the covid-19 suspects in the nine districts of Masaka, Lwengo, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Sembabule, Kyotera, Rakai, Kalangala and Rakai.


He, however, appealed to the central government and the Ministry of Health to avail the hospital with necessary equipment and protective gears to ensure the safety of the medical personnel.

Meanwhile, the hospital management has relocated the Covid-19 isolation centre from Masaka School of Comprehensive Nursing to Mental Ward, which is more spacious with 74 beds. Uganda had 48 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of yesterday morning and majority are returnees from United Arab Emirates. Of these, four are from Masaka District.

Masaka hospital was elevated to a referral level in 1995 to offer services to the Greater southern region districts. Since then, the hospital management has been grappling with many challenges ranging from lack of space to accommodate the overwhelming number of patients, inadequate drugs and irregular power supply.

Masaka Regional Referral Hospital serves eight districts – Masaka, Rakai, Lyantonde, Lwengo, Ssembabule, Bukomansimbi, Kalungu and Kalangala. Being on the busy Kampala Mbarara-Kigali highway, makes it the first port of call for patients, mainly accident victims from Burundi, Rwanda, the DR Congo and Tanzania. Consequently, the hospital’s average patient reporting is about 2,000.

Namutumba HIV patients stuck
Meanwhile, in Namutumba District, people living with HIV/Aids are reportedly not taking their ARVs following the lockdown.
The patients have appealed to President Museveni, through the Ministry of Works and Transport, to consider them among essential categories and give them stickers.

“We lack vehicles on which to put the stickers but if they are given to us, we shall carry them in our hands or fix them on motorcycles to enable us access health centres for ARVs,” Mr William Mupere, a patient, said on Saturday.
Mr Mupere added that some people do not take the drugs because they lack what to eat.

The Namutumba Covid-19 focal person, Mr Tom Kamize, who is also the in-charge of Magada Health Centre III and district drug inspector, said it is risky for HIV patients to miss ARVs.

“As the health team, we are worried of our patients because a number of them have gone some days without taking their drugs, putting their lives at risk. Some patients have started developing varying unhealthy signs and symptoms due to missing drugs depending on their immunity,” he said.

He, however, added that the district health department, led by district health officer are trying to find alternative measures to see that patients resume taking their drugs normally.

The Namutumba Town Council chairperson, Mr Godfrey Mwembe, urged health workers to reach out to the HIV patients at their respective homesteads.

Mr Mwembe said: “Every Tuesday, we used to get more than 70 patients coming for ARVs but the number has reduced to 15 which is alarming.”

He also opposed the idea proposed by health workers that HIV patients start getting their drugs from their respective villages in groups with the help of VHTs, saying some patients want to take their drugs in isolation; so, exposing them will lead to loss of self-esteem.

Mr George Lubera, the Namutumba Sub-county chairperson, said it is high time government started equipping Health Centre IIs with ARVs to save the patients.