Two dead as Mulago closes ICU facility

Wednesday October 31 2012



At least two people died on Monday after the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Uganda’s largest hospital was closed because of an equipment breakdown.

Daily Monitor has learnt that the unit was closed last week and patients are being turned away.

At least 10 patients visit the unit every day. “Yesterday (Monday), we lost two patients who could have survived if there was functioning equipment. Most of the patients who turn up daily can be saved if supported under intensive care for 4-6 days,” a source at the hospital said. This is the second time the equipment had failed this year alone.

The hospital’s Executive Director, Dr Byarugaba Baterana, refused to comment on the matter yesterday. However, in an earlier interview, he had said the equipment at the unit was too old and needed to be replaced.

When the Daily Monitor visited the unit yesterday, health workers sat around idle.
The closure of the unit has mostly affected patients of pneumonia, head injuries, kidney and heart failure. Health experts say the unit is in urgent need of an overhaul to be able to meet the demand for services.


Dr Arthur Kwizera, an anesthesiologist at the ICU, said in an earlier interview that the facility needed Shs3 billion for new equipment. In February, Dr Baterana said a $56 million loan had been obtained from the African Development Bank to buy new equipment.

Sick sector
According to a research paper published by the Bio Med Central Journal, Uganda has only one ICU bed for every one million Ugandans. The paper reveals that critical care remains neglected with many patients with potentially treatable conditions unable to access services.

Ideally, with Mulago’s 1,500 bed capacity, at least 150 of them should be in a high dependency ward for people who need more intensive observation and treatment.

Other departments that have ICU beds in the hospital are the pediatric ward (4) which are not working, the Heart Institute (4) and the Cancer Institute (3) while the general ward has 12 beds with no equipment. Other public hospitals that have functioning ICUs in the country are Mbarara, Lacor, Gulu and Jinja.

Health officials say for every patient who is put on intensive care, the government spends between shs3-4 million in drugs, medical gas and intensive care medicine. Patients usually pay a weekly fee of Shs500,000.