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Shortage of Anaesthetic Officers Hindering Health Care in West Nile

According to the local government, human resource structure, every health center IV is supposed to have one anesthetic officer and an assistant. However, several health center IVs in the sub-region are operating without anesthetic officers.

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Several health facilities in the West Nile sub-region are struggling to offer services due to an acute shortage of anesthetic officers.

Anesthetic officers are physicians who evaluate, monitor and supervise patient care before, during, and after surgery as well as ensuring optimal patient safety.

According to the local government, human resource structure, every health center IV is supposed to have one anesthetic officer and an assistant. However, several health center IVs in the sub-region are operating without anesthetic officers.

The facilities are Maracha Health center IV in Maracha District, Goli health center IV in Nebbi district, and Moyo health center IV, among others.

At Arua Regional Referral Hospital, there are three anesthetic officers despite being overwhelmed by the number of emergency cesarean operations.

Dr. Emmanuel Odar, a Gynecologist at Arua Regional Referral Hospital says, the shortage has forced other health workers to attend to patients who need emergency operations. 

He said the shortage of anesthesia providers has greatly hindered the full operationalization of the facilities.

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Arua District Acting Health Officer, Paul Drileba says that they have only one anesthetic officer who is stationed at Kuluva hospital since the district currently lacks a health center IV.

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Although the local governments are supposed to hire anesthesia providers, many districts in the region have failed to recruit citing wage impediments.

Dr. Paul Onzubo, Maracha District Health Officer, has blamed the shortage on the few numbers of people being trained.

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According to the Ministry of Health, the country needs a total of 400 anesthesiologists, 2,831 anesthetic officers, and 5,000 ICU nurses to work in regional referral hospitals.

Records at the Association of Anesthesiologists of Uganda estimate that there are 68 anesthesiologists who serve the entire country.

In 2019, the Ministry of Health pledged to embark on a training program to attract people in this highly specialized field as a measure to address the gaps.