Hospitals Yet to Prepare for Ebola Threat

Several hospitals across the country are not prepared to handle Ebola cases. Two weeks ago the Ministry of Health reported an outbreak of Ebola in Mubende District.

Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Uganda addressing the media. Photo/Twitter/MinofHealthUG

In a survey by URN at some of the major hospitals, there were gaps in enforcing Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures. They are no facilities for handwashing at entrances while some are experiencing stockouts of key protective gear for health workers like gloves and facemasks.

At Kabale Regional Referral Hospital, which serves six districts of the Kigezi region, they were still experiencing a stock out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and no isolation unit had so far been prepared to handle any Ebola cases.

Dr. Filbert, Nyeko, the Hospital Director says they are considering erecting a tent that was used as an isolation center for Covid-19 patients.  Nyeko however is worried that the hospital has been experiencing a PPE shortage for many months as they last received stocks when they were still handling COVID-19 cases.

At Kisenyi Health Center IV in Kampala, water points are seen at the entrance but no one is stationed to ensure that they are used by people accessing the hospital. URN monitored the entrance for about thirty minutes, and people were entering without stopping at the water point which was covered in dust. 

At the main gate of the National Referral Hospital in Mulago, the situation was not very different. Bottles of sanitizers were placed atop a stationed luggage scanner, but there was no person to enforce the use of sanitizers.  The facility had received four suspected cases that were being isolated at the medical emergency unit.

David Nuwamanya, the hospital Principal Administrator said the cases had since tested negative but, this facility remains a hotspot since they receive alerts and suspected cases from across the country.

Nuwamanya reveals that one of the four suspect cases that were confirmed negative had previously traveled to Mubende where the outbreak was first confirmed last week. Since then twenty-four cases have been confirmed across Mubende, Kyegegwa, and Kassanda districts.

Experts warn that even as the disease has been confirmed in those districts, transmission can be quick to other districts and they, therefore, encourage enforcement of Standard Operating Procedures such as hand hygiene and avoiding body contact.

Some hospitals have however heeded this advice. A visit to Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital where the six health workers from Mubende Health Workers are isolated after contracting Ebola, reveals strict observation of SOPs. Everyone entering the hospital is strictly sanitized and they have to be wearing a mask.

According to Dr. Pius Igirimbabazi, a member of the Hospital Task Force, the hospital is organizing an even bigger space for the isolation of suspects and another for treatment. So far the confirmed cases are being treated at a six-bed capacity ward but they plan to move to a tent that was previously used to isolate COVID-19 cases.

The same measures are being taken in the neighboring Kasese district where surveillance teams that were working during COVID-19 have been reactivated.

Bwera General Hospital isolation unit-formerly used to handle covid-19 cases, has also been re-activated to handle all Ebola cases reported in the district.  

Steven Bagonza, the Assistant DHO says that all the reporting and monitoring tools used during the Covid-19 period are available and would be reproduced to guide in handling Ebola disease.   He adds that the district risk communication team is currently circulating alert messages on Ebola diseases in public places. 

The messages are intended to raise awareness about case detection, protection precautions, and reporting Ebola suspected cases.  

Lt. Magwara Matte, the Deputy RDC in charge of Bukhonzo Constituency says the district has been on alert since an Ebola case was reported in neighboring DR. Congo last month.

Rev. Ezra Mukonzo, the chairperson of Interreligious faith organizations in Kasese is requesting training for all key stakeholders including religious and cultural leaders so that they can come up with a uniform message to share with their public. 

In Kigezi, where the hospital appears largely ill-prepared, Dr. Gilbert Arineitwe Mateeka, Kabale District Health Officer says that the district PPEs can be shared with the referral hospital in case a case is registered at the facility before supply from National Medical Stores-NMS.  

At Mbarara Region Referral Hospital, Halson Kagure the Mbarara Region Referral Hospital head of communication says that the hospital will utilize the new state of art Infectious diseases treatment center to handle confirmed and suspected cases.

He says that the treatment center replaces the temporary unit that handled the Covid-19 cases.

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