Uganda: Shortage of Space Limiting Heart Operation At Mulago

29 January 2019

Kampala — The Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) has said shortage of working space has curtailed doctors' ability to treat heart patients and many cases remain waiting in the queue daily.

"The patients are there, we have a very big waiting list. We had a 12 bed intensive care unit (ICU) but it was handed over to Mulago hospital with the hope that it will be brought back better in two years. It is four years now it has not come back," Dr John Omagino, the executive director of the institute said yesterday.

"So we only have four beds which we had to improvise. We broke part of the offices and created beds. But those four beds cannot support 1,000 operations needed every year," he added.

Dr Omagino said expanding the work space will enable them reach out to almost every heart patient in the country.

"If we had the 12 beds it would be possible to do three operations per day or even five. But we cannot because the patient has to be in ICU for 48 hours before he is stable enough to be moved to the general ward," he explained.

Currently the patients from ICU are taken to Uganda Cancer Institute where the general ward is, though it also is short of beds.

As our reporters toured the ward, some patients were seen admitted on chairs rather than beds.

Dr Omagino said lack of working space has led to few heart operations daily thus less work for the doctors who feel their skills are not being utilised and they decide to leave the institute for other jobs.

"Instead of operating three times a week, may be they operate once a week because there is no space. So if you do not practice, your skills deteriorate. It is also frustrating when you are used to working. You see patients dying in front of you but you cannot help. So the doctors start looking for jobs somewhere else," said Prof Francis Omaswa, the executive director of African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation.

There are about 300 heart patients who require surgery every year though about 100 are usually worked upon with a cumulative of 500 children on the waiting list.

Meanwhile Rotarians have mobilised about Shs1 billion for surgical operations on 100 children born with heart defects.

Under this grant, 30 open heart surgeries, 20 closed heart surgeries and 50 interventional cardiac catherisation procedures will be conducted.

Of the 1.5 million babies born in Uganda per year about 15,000 of them have heart problems and half of these need medical assistance.

The total cost of operating a child abroad stands at $20,000 (about Shs73 million) and about $5,000 (Shs18.4m) when done in the country.

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