Kampala — Ministry of Health records seen by this reporter indicate that the country has only 48 radiologists meant to serve the almost 40million Ugandans. This means one radiologist handles over 850,000 people with different complexities.
Of the said 48 radiologists whose work entails using imaging techniques, like remote scanning, radiotherapy, X-ray, ultrasound, MRIs and CT scan to diagnose and treat certain conditions from broken bones to serious heart conditions, 11 are already retired leaving only 37 active in service.
Dr Annet Kugonza of International Hospital Kampala who is also a member of association of radiologists of Uganda said this number is just a drop in an ocean given the departments in the sector.
"This is a very small number, a big hospital like Mulago requires about 20 radiologists given the number of cases reported there every day. The departments are so many, you need to have at least a radiologist in each," Dr Kugonza said.
Out of the 14 regional referral hospitals in the country, only six have a radiologist or two. Mulago takes the lion's share with six.
Moroto Regional Referral Hospital has two, Gulu has two, Mbale has two, Soroti has one, Jinja has one and Fort Portal has one. The regional hospitals with no radiologists are Kabale hospital, Arua Hospital, Hoima Hospital, China-Uganda friend's hospital Naguru and Mbarara Hospital.
The other institutions with pathologists are; Makerere University with five, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) has two, Mulago National Hospital six, Uganda Cancer institute two and three in radiology practice (one in South Africa and two in Kenya).
She added, "The radiology needs a specialist in a department."
Dr Moses Acan, head of department at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) said many people die due to misinterpretation of images.
"There many cases of deaths in the hospitals that relate to misinterpretation of X-rays. You get to treat someone based on what they tell, as you treat them for an infection it is only at a later stage that you will know they are cancerous. I came to realise this when I became a radiologist," he said.
According to Mr Acan who graduated last year, in the last three years, seven students have been passed out in all universities that have the course. But three of these were foreigners and have since moved back to their countries.
Dr Kugonza told the medical students of Kabojja International School who had gone for a study tour about radiology at IHK last week that, "a radiologist is the eye of the medical fraternity.
Getting an X-ray done could be work for anyone but being able to interpret the image cannot be done as perfectly as specialist in radiology. We are investigators and we diagnose broken limbs, cracked skulls and other emergencies that include the heart, muscles as long as they are presented in pictorial form."
For one to become a complete radiologist, they need to have done a degree in medicine which is normally five years, one year of internship and two years of practice.
"Three years have been on but we have realised that the course is very wide and we shall need about four years to be able to have everything therein covered," he said.