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Patients Burdened by Limited Access to CT Scan Services in Northern Uganda

It is estimated a patient spends between 900,000 to 1,500,000 to hire an ambulance loaded with return fuel and support nurse from Gulu to Kampala to access CT scan machine services. Patients from Karamoja and West Nile sub regions even spent more on the journey.
Patients seeking medical care services at Nyumanzi Health Centre III in Adjumani District in 2019 - Photo by Dominic Ochola

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Patients seeking diagnostic treatment aided by Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans in Northern Uganda are unhappy due to limited access to radio technology services.

CT scan machines are used in the diagnosis of illnesses like muscle and bone disorders, such as bone tumours and fractures. It pinpoints the location of a tumour, infection or blood clot to guide for the next procedure.

However, in Acholi sub-region and neighbouring Karamoja, Lango, Teso and of West Nile regions of Uganda, limited access to the CT scan services to facilitate timely diagnostic treatment and monitoring of illnesses continue to burden patients.

Bosco Ouma, 58, a resident of Atiak Sub-County in Amuru district reveals that he has been battling stroke and head trauma since 2010 when he was diagnosed with the condition from Gulu Regional Referral Hospital. He said because of limited access to the CT scan machine services it has made him suffer because he has to travel out of Northern Uganda to access it.

Another patient, Moses Lubangakene of Atanga Sub-County in Pader district who was diagnosed with bone tumours in 2015 from Kitgum Government Hospital reveals that he has been burdened by high costs of transport to access CT scan services in Kampala.

"I spend huge sums of money between the range of 400,000 -700,000 to cater for my hospital bills, transport, feeding and maintenance whenever I go for CT scans in Kampala," said Lubangakene.

It is estimated that a patient spends between 900,000 to 1,500,000 to hire an ambulance loaded with return fuel and a support nurse from Gulu to Kampala to access CT scan machine services. Patients from Karamoja and West Nile sub-regions even spent more on the journey.

Doctors say for every 100 patients requiring CT scan machine services hospitals in the greater north, only 30 of them can afford the money for the scan in Kampala meaning the 70 stays on and die without diagnosis and monitoring.

In 2018, St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu and St. Joseph’s hospital in Kitgum referred to 656 and 349 patients to Kampala for specialized treatment including CT scan out of whom 181 and 47 respectively required CT scan service.

Dr Cyprian Opira, the Director St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor is optimistic the ongoing fundraising drive towards the purchase and installation of 3.1 billion Shillings’ high resolution 128 slices CT scan will save many patients from spending a lot travelling to Kampala.

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The 2017/2018 Uganda Annual Health Sector Performance report indicates that there are 17 CT scans in the country of which 13 of them are distributed within Kampala.

In South Western Uganda, there are two CT scans both in Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, and Mayanja Memorial Hospital, while in Eastern Uganda, there are two CT scans; both in Mbale Municipality – at Cure Hospital and Mt. Elgon Hospital and other regions don’t have the machine.