A number of hospital administrators who spoke to our reporters on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from their bosses, said they haven’t received any equipment. The few available beds are in terrible state and unfit for human use. In the Eastern Uganda, only two ICU beds are functional at Jinja Regional Referral hospital.
Regional Referral Hospitals
across the country lack the capacity to handle critical COVID19 cases,
according to a survey conducted by URN. This contradicts earlier claims by the
Health Ministry that Regional Referral Hospitals are prepared to handle COVID19
cases should the need arise. Last week, Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng
said the 16 Regional Referral Hospitals would be equipped to handle critical
She said each hospital would
have an isolation ward with 30 beds, 10 of which would be dedicated to the
intensive care unit. The Health Ministry noted that some regional referral
hospitals like Arua, Jinja, Gulu and Mbarara have some equipment but would need
re-enforcements. According to the World Health Organisation-WHO,
ventilators are key in treating COVID19 patients with severe symptoms because
of breathing difficulties.
In some critical cases,
patients may need to be admitted in Intensive Care to allow the monitoring of
vital organs in cases where COVID19 patients don’t respond to supportive
treatment. Although Uganda has 52 confirmed COVID19 cases, reports from regional hospitals show that not only do they lack personal protective equipment; they
also lack isolation wards and ICU beds for monitoring critical cases.
A number of hospital administrators who spoke
to our reporters on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from their
bosses, said they haven’t received any equipment.
The few available beds are in terrible state and unfit for human use. In the
Eastern Uganda, only two ICU beds are functional at Jinja Regional Referral
“We had four beds but only
two are functional. The rest are not working because we have had problems with
batteries for two of them. Also, the anesthesiologist we have only comes three
times a day. We rarely use these services, because we rarely get such case.
When we do, we forward them to Mulago National Referral Hospital,” one of the
Mbale Regional Referral Hospital is yet to receive
any ICU beds as promised by the Health Ministry. Dr. Emmanuel Tugaineyo, the Director
Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, says they also lack an ICU ward and beds. He
however, says the Ministry directed that the hospital sets aside some beds to
work as ICU beds to help in the fight against the Corona Virus pandemic.
Dr. Tugaineyo says they have
worked on the Isolation Center for the region pending few refurbishments.
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At other regional referrals, the lack of designated
places to act as isolation wards has forced them to discharge patients to
create the much sought after space. Masaka Regional Referral Hospital
prematurely discharged several patients with mental illnesses last week to
create space for the COVID19 Intensive Care Unit.
Dr. Nathan Onyaki, the Director Masaka Regional
Referral Hospital, says all the ten patients in their Mental Health Ward were
discharged to prepare the facility for treating COVID-19 patients. The ward can
only accommodate 10 patients and as of now, no other area is being organised to
handle the extra cases.
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Entebbe Regional Referral Hospital has only
three ICU beds. The ICU section has three respirators, three dialysis machines,
five monitors and one oxygen cylinder, which apparently one patient can consume
in a day. A source at the hospital told URN on condition of anonymity that
what the Ministry is saying are just promises that haven’t yet been realised on
“We don’t have 10 ICU beds. As you can see, we
have a few things. The only thing that is helping us handle these cases is that
none of them has needed critical care. If they needed advanced care, the
situation here would be different from what it is,” she said.
Some sources indicate that admitting
confirmed COVID-19 patients in the ICU will require a total overhaul of systems
thereafter before other people can use them to prevent further infection. Arua
Regional Referral hospital also lacks ICU beds. The hospital Director, Dr.
Philbert Nyeko, said they were yet to receive any ICU bed.
“I have not gotten
any information about ICU beds. I know nothing about such beds being brought to
the hospital. I do not even know if they are coming. Until, I get a letter from
the ministry informing me of a pending delivery, this is news to me,” Dr. Nyeko
A doctor at Gulu Regional
Referral hospital laughed off claims that they had received ICU beds, saying this
was a bad joke. “Please go and cross check with the Ministry about the
availability of ICU beds. This must be a plan in the works. Ask them for
clarity. We do not know anything about ICU beds being delivered,” the
The Health Ministry Spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, said the Health Ministry has begun
the procurement process of ICU beds, saying they will be available soon. He
says since none of the patients receiving treatment needs critical care, there
is no urgent need for ICU beds or even ventilators.
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The number of confirmed COVID19
cases stands at over 1.2 million worldwide. In Africa, the number stands at
over 7000 cases.