Jinja Hospital aims at genetic screening to tame sickle cell disease

Health workers taking sickle cell tests during a health camp organised by Busoga Health Press Group. PHOTO/TAUSI NAKATO

What you need to know:

  • Authorities at Jinja Hospital say the facility is currently facing a challenge of managing sickle cell patients due to blood shortages.

Jinja Regional Referral Hospital (JRRH) authorities have announced plans to start genetic screening among couples to tame escalating sickle cell disease cases in Busoga Sub-region.

Reports from the ministry of health indicate that sickle cell prevalence among children in Busoga stands at 20 percent.

JRRH Director Dr Alfred Yayi said this causes a threat to children since two in every ten children born are having this disease.

According to Dr Yayi, an average of 60-80 affected children are registered at the sickle cell clinic attached to the hospital every week.

“Sickle cell registries have been established at the hospital to register all affected children that the hospital is dealing with for proper planning,” he noted.

Dr Yayi revealed that an adult sickle cell centre has been established at the hospital main campus on Baxi Road, different from the children’s ward at Nalufenya Clive Road west.

“Therefore, we are moving towards encouraging couples to start genetic screening at the hospital because sickle cell is preventable if more people having the gene can avoid getting married to one another,’’ he explained to Monitor.

However, he said the hospital is currently facing a challenge of managing sickle cell patients due to blood shortages.

He pointed out that the patients always become anemic, but the region does not have a stable blood supply.

“We don’t have a regional blood bank but we have only one blood collection centre .What is collected here has to be taken to Kampala for screening before it comes back to us.You have to run to look for blood and that delay may cost somebody’s life,’’ he noted.

However, Dr Yayi, says the above situation has forced the hospital to plan construction of a blood bank starting next year at a contested land on plot 31-39 Baxi road.

Tackle Sickle cell Africa president Derrick Mutatiina emphasized need for a blood bank saying “sickle cell patients survive on blood.”

Mutatiina urged Ugandans to donate blood to save lives.

“We don’t have machines that manufacture blood. When parts of the body like kidney, liver and heart are not supplied very well with blood which is rich in oxygen, that is what causes most of the death in sickle cell patients,’’ he said.

Speaking at the launch of the Busoga Health Press group, Uganda’s first Deputy Prime Minister Rebecca Alitwala urged journalists to spread messages against the spread of the disease.

“Sickle cell disease is very prevalent in Busoga. Sensitizing people on how to identify, prevent and manage the disease is crucial,’’ she said.

Whisper's Magical Children's Hospital spokesperson in Jinja City Grace Morgan Mwesigwa reported that 2,286 sickle cell patients were registered at the facility in 2023.

But at least two sickle cell patients that were being handled by the hospital have died since January 2024.

“Government should consider compulsory tests for sickle cells among people before marriage in this region if the problem should be reduced,” he argued.