Leaders protest privately-owned Covid testing lab at Elegu border

Wednesday March 03 2021
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Men plead with UPDF soldiers at Elegu border to be allowed to cross to South Sudan on June 21, 2020. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

By Tobbias Jolly Owiny

Authorities in Amuru District have protested a proposal by government to establish a privately-owned Covid-19 testing laboratory at Elegu border post.

According to a February 11 letter addressed to the Health ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, Mr Michael Lakony,  the Amuru District chairperson, said the district would kick out the firm should it begin the exercise without official notification from the Health ministry.

Mr Lakony said it was unfortunate that the Health ministry came up with the decision without informing them. 

“Many health workers deployed there will be rendered jobless and such action paints the image of the ministry in bad faith as focus is put on exploiting Ugandans instead of offering affordable services and the district disassociates itself from it,” he wrote.

Mr Lakony said many vulnerable Ugandans returning from South Sudan cannot afford the exorbitant costs of Covid-19 tests that would be charged by the private firm.

“Suspend any operation of Test and Fly at the Elegu border, till when we have a clear ground among us,” he added.

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The leaders say the decision not only frustrates the current efforts of the district (Covid-19) taskforce but sidelines the district to benefit from revenue generated from tests.

Daily Monitor also established that currently, Covid-19 tests at Elegu border post generate an average of Shs10 million every day. A fraction of the funds is shared with the district taskforce.

When government introduced cost-sharing in Covid-19 testing last year, Elegu border post raised more than Shs200 million, according to the figures disclosed by the district taskforce.

Background

In October 2020, internationally-acclaimed laboratory service providers, Microhaem Laboratories partnered with the Health ministry and the National Aviation Services, to introduce Test and Fly lab shortly after government okayed resumption of air travels.

The facility performs advanced diagnostic testing on behalf of government and other private clinical laboratories.

Elegu embarked on testing South Sudan entrants into Uganda in June 2020 at the peak of Covid-19, especially among truck drivers.

Samples collected are moved to Adjumani General Hospital, where a testing machine was set up by government.

The testing equipment could not be at the border following a recommendation by the ministry’s technical committee, who advised that it should be in a hospital.




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