The Internet shutdown by government on January 13 significantly affected patients’ access to doctors and acquisition of medical supplies by hospitals in the country, medical experts have revealed.
Even as government restored Internet yesterday, online users are reporting that they cannot access some social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp even after paying the over-the-top (OTT) tax.
Dr Susan Nakireka, the board chair of Uganda Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, said a large number of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension rely on platforms such as WhatsApp to update doctors and get instant advice on their health status.
“Many of our patients [with non-communicable diseases] were asked not to come to the hospital regularly because of Covid-19. [So] we have been managing them through WhatsApp,” she said.
The prevalence of diabetes in Uganda is estimated at 1.4 per cent, according to the latest study by Ministry of Health in 2014.
Dr Nakireka said the Internet shutdown could result in worsening health conditions of some patients and increase death risks.
About 40 per cent of the total deaths in the country in 2019 were due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), according to Mr Frank Mugabe, the principal medical officer at the Ministry of Health’s division of NCDs.
“We also train health workers to manage non-communicable diseases through Internet platforms such as Zoom. But with Internet blackout, you cannot do that,” he said.
Dr Emmanuel Tugainayo, the director of Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, said the results for samples from some Covid-19 suspects that were sent to laboratories for the Coronavirus testing could not be relayed back to the hospital due to the Internet blackout.
He said they receive results from the Ministry of Health through email.