Kampala, Uganda | URN | Patients with severe COVID-19 referred to Mulago National Referral Hospital are being forced to share wards with other critically ill patients following the closure of the COVID-19 treatment unit.
A doctor who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, says that they received a severe COVID-19 case on Monday 28, March 2022 night and was admitted to 4A ward, which normally hosts patients with breathing difficulties arising from other health conditions.
The doctor who is worried that the highly contagious disease could kill patients whose immunity is already low due to illness, says that the dedicated COVID-19 unit that housed the High Dependency and Intensive Care Unit in the hospital at the height of the pandemic, has since closed because of the reduction of COVID-19 infections.
Commenting on this development, Dr. Samuel Oledo, the President of the Uganda Medical Association expressed fears that this doesn’t only put patients at risk, but health workers too, saying it could spark another upsurge in COVID-19 cases.
David Nuwamanya, the Principal Administrator of Mulago National Referral Hospital declined to comment on the matter and instead referred our reporter to the Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, saying that they were releasing new general guidelines for health units that were handling COVID-19 cases.
Dr Aceng denied closing any treatment units explaining that they can only do this later on when they have vaccinated a reasonable number of the population to guarantee herd immunity.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine has directed health workers that had been deployed in the COVID-19 treatment units across the country including the national referral to vacate hospitals.
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In her letter, Dr Atwine says that the reduction in COVID-19 cases coupled with budgetary constraints can’t allow them to retain health workers employed under the emergency response even as they had earlier been validated to be absorbed in health facilities once the pandemic is gone.
“This letter is therefore to inform you of the decision and to request you to mainstream the management of COVID-19 into the existing structure to ensure continuity of COVID-19 service delivery in hospitals,” she said.
She directed directors of National and Regional Referral hospitals to ensure proper handover of any government property that may be in the possession of the laid-off staff.