Ebola: Deceased Tanzanian Doctor to be Buried in Uganda

The Tanzanian doctor who succumbed to Ebola viral disease at Fort Portal Regional Referral hospital will be buried in Uganda, Dr. Henry Kyobe, the Ebola Incident Commander at the Ministry of Health told URN on Saturday.

Dr. Mohamed Ali Hafidh who was a Masters’ student at Kampala International hospital died in the early morning of Saturday, becoming the country’s first health worker to succumb to the outbreak that was first confirmed in Mubende district on September 20th.

The doctor had been attached to Mubende Regional Referral Hospital where it’s said they conducted surgery on an infected person before confirmation of the first case.

Now, the Ministry of Health says evacuating the doctor’s body to a country that has no active disease would be risky considering the fact that Ebola bodies can transmit infection for up to one week. 

Under normal circumstances, when a foreign national dies in the country, the Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health is supposed to give technical advice  and clearance to the Ministry of Foreign to get the destination country’s approval to have a body evacuated.

Dr. Paul Stephen Ayella – Ataro, a Clinical Epidemiologist says if such is to happen for the deceased Tanzanian medical worker, they would need Uganda’s Safe and Dignified burial team charter a flight or use an ambulance in a very cautious way to transport the body.

Ataro who is one of the doctors Uganda sent to handle Ebola in West Africa in 2014 says this process is not just expensive but also can put his family back in Tanzania at risk of infection. He explains that this is partly why a lot of people got infected in West Africa – through funeral processes.

He further says that previously, the guidelines were for the government to designate a specific burial ground for people who succumb and this is how the Ugandan doctor Samuel Muhumuza  who died in Liberia got to be buried there. 

But burial seems not to be the only concern arising from the death of the doctor. For instance Dr. Herbert Luswata, the General Secretary of the Uganda Medical Association says they are not clear of how compensation of health workers dying in line of duty will be done. 

He says no health worker has so far received any risk allowance or signed any document that stipulates how much they will be getting.

Earlier in the day, URN had spoken to the Fort Portal hospital Director Dr. Alex Adaku who said they were in contact with the university, the deceased family and Ministry of Health to finalise on burial plans. He at the time could not specify in which country burial would take place.

The other five health workers that were still admitted are in stable condition at the time Adaku spoke.

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