Uganda: Covid Centre Fails to Run Over Power, Food

The absence of electricity and food has delayed operationalisation of the Covid-19 isolation and treatment unit at Pachara Health Centre II in Pachara Sub-county, Adjumani District, Daily Monitor has learnt.

At the end of 2020, the Adjumani District Covid-19 taskforce decided to turn Pachara Health Centre II into a Covid-19 treatment and isolation centre to manage the surging cases in the district.

The resolution followed the taskforce's findings that isolating and treating Covid-19 patients at Adjumani General Hospital in Adjumani Town risked spreading the pandemic further due to congestion and limited security at the facility.

According to health officials, due to the absence of a High Dependency Unit (HDU) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital, five Covid-19 patients have died at the facility in the last three months.

On Monday, Dr Michael Ambaku, the medical superintendent of Adjumani hospital, said they have opted to enrol patients on home-based care management since they cannot take patients to Pachara Health Centre II.

"We are trying instead to strengthen the home-based care management as we wait for the extension of the electricity to Pachara. We were also delayed because many of those admitted are poor and have trouble feeding themselves whereas we cannot feed them," Dr Ambaku said.

In a separate interview, Dr Dominic Drametu, the district health officer, said the district has already engaged Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) to assess the cost of connecting power to the facility.

"Once that place is connected we shall start utilising it since it has a bigger capacity of eight beds compared to the current one [Adjumani hospital] which has five beds," he said.

Dr Drametu added that the district's inability to secure funds has also affected the purchase of essential medicines and personal protective equipment for health workers to manage patients in isolation.

"If it were not for partners, we would not be having medicines for treating Covid-19 patients," Dr Drametu said.

Last week, the Parliamentary Committee on the Covid-19 Response, while on a visit to Adjumani General Hospital, recommended the immediate closure of the current treatment centre at the facility.

Dr George Bhoka, a member of the committee and the Obongi County MP, said the treatment centre had possibly become a unit for cross-infection due to poor spacing and the open access by the public.

"An ideal Covid-19 isolation and treatment unit should be well spaced and away from the rest of the patients or members of the public. Last year we had designated Pachara to be the treatment centre for Covid-19 and resources had been mobilised from UNHCR," Dr Bhoka said.

Speaking with the district's Covid-19 taskforce members after the visit, Dr Samuel Opio, another member of the Parliament's committee, said the hospital lacks enough oxygen cylinders and travel long distances to refill the few available ones.

"Government needs to strengthen the capacity of the hospital to be able to handle severe cases. Provision of a HDU and establishment of an oxygen plant in the district to avoid travelling a long distance to fill oxygen cylinders should be made a priority," Dr Opio said.

Adjumani General Hospital has 20 oxygen cylinders, although hospital authorities said these have not been filled for the past month.

Dr Drametu indicated that the National Medical Stores stopped refilling the hospital's oxygen cylinders since the demand and cost of refilling shot up recently. "When we send the cylinders to NMS to fill them, they take more than a month before they are returned," Dr Drametu said.

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