Patients seeking services from government health centres in Namutumba District are being turned away for not wearing facemasks.
Health workers say the decision comes after Namutumba Kaiti Prisons confirmed some cases of Covid-19 among inmates last month.
Ms Ruth Namwase, a resident of Magada Village in Magada Sub-county, who had come for antenatal services, said expectant women have shunned government health units and would resort to traditional birth attendants.
“In the past, expectant women had stopped delivering from government units because some midwives were allegedly hostile to them, but now they have started shunning them because of facemasks,” Ms Namwase said.
Ms Robinah Kagoya, who is on ARVs treatment, said many HIV patients are missing out on their drugs because they are not allowed to access the unit.
“Only those with masks are being given their ARVS. Not all patients can afford a mask. Masks were given to few HIV patients’ leaders in the district who monitor ARVS patients weekly,” Ms Kagoya, a resident of Kangulumo Village in Namutumba Town Council, said.
Ms Betty Nanyonga, a patient with diabetes, and resident of Buwambi Village in Namutumba Town Council, said she went to Namutumba Health Centre III on Monday to check on her sugar levels but was not attended to.
“We have not refused to wear the masks, but are still waiting for government masks which are yet to reach my village. Once this persists, there will be more people dying because they were denied treatment for not wearing a mask,” she said.
Government recently rolled out a nationwide distribution of free face masks; however, they are yet to reach the entire country.
A health worker, who requested anonymity because she is not authorised to speak to the media, said some community members were not quarantined although they had been in contact with the inamtes.
“The prisoners who tested positive used to go to the same borehole used by community members and district civil servants; but we were shocked to see only prisoners plus few police officers being tested, leaving out community members,” she added.
The officer-in-charge of Namutumba Health Centre III, Mr Richard Ndaye, said wearing a mask in public places was a presidential directive.
“We are strict on this and patients who are coming without masks are being told to buy, use their clothes as face masks or leave. This is not our own making but we are doing it to prevent the spread of the virus as we are not aware of each and everyone’s health status on Covid-19,” he said.
Mr Tom Kamize, the district drug inspector, said the Covid-19 taskforce had never resolved that patients should be denied treatment over facemasks.
“We have had incidents at Namutumba Health centre III of medics denying patients without masks treatment, which is illegal and unethical. Patients should instead be advised to buy cheap face masks rather than sending them home,” Mr Kamize said.