News Wire Reporter
As the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to create havoc in the country, there have been questions on whether enough beds are available for treating the rising cases.
This follows claims by some Covid-19 patients that they are being turned away from health facilities after being told the respective centers are full to capacity and cannot take any more cases.
However, several public health facilities this newspaper visited yesterday indicated they still have space to accommodate more Covid-19 cases.
“There is space for Covid-19 patients,” Dr. Byarugaba Baterana, the executive director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, told this newspaper yesterday about the facility.
He added: “The hospital is capable of admitting up to 900 [Covid-19] patients and as we speak, we have not even reached 180.”
“The issue is that some of the patients coming to us want to have private rooms yet we do not advise patients to be admitted there because when one falls sick, they will easily be secluded. We want patients to be in the general ward where medical personnel can easily see and attend to them.”
The case of patients preferring to be admitted in private wards rather than in the general wing is because of the stigma attached to the illness. So, in the end, they prefer to battle the illness privately without many eyes watching them.
Authorities from other regional referral hospitals also told Daily Monitor that they have free beds for Covid-19 patients.
“There is space, but it might run out because of the increasing cases of Covid-19. We have 38 beds specifically designated for Covid-19 patients. On Monday, we had 20 patients, which leaves 18 beds unoccupied,” Dr. Nathan Onyachi, the director of Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, said.
He added: “But we also have a tent within the hospital which can accommodate 50 beds, but it is not yet underused. We have asked the Ministry (of Health) to give us beds and we could increase our capacity in those tents by another 30 to 50 beds.”
At Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, Dr. John Wilson Etolu, a consultant physician at the facility, said there are 60 beds designated for handling cases of Covid-19.
“Fifty beds are currently occupied, while 10 remain vacant,” Dr. Etolu said yesterday.
At Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, the facility’s director, Dr. Emmanuel Tugaineyo, said: “Our Covid-19 center can accommodate about 50 patients.
Currently, 30 patients are admitted and an of number, 20 need oxygen. [However], these few patients are stretching the manpower and the equipment we have at the moment.”
On the other hand, Dr. James Elima, the director of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, said there are 16 beds designated for handling Covid-19 patients at the facility, and out of these, 12 of them are occupied.
The situation in private hospitals
However, the situation in private hospitals is different.
Several of them are full to capacity and many of them have been sending away Covid-19 patients because of limited space.
Some of the directors of these hospitals told Daily Monitor that it is costly to manage huge numbers at the facilities because they have to hire extra nurses, doctors, and specialists to handle these patients.
They also said Covid-19 supplies are very expensive, including ventilators, oxygen, medicine, and personal protective equipment (PPES).
Medipal International Hospital acting medical director Richard Kikundwa said they can accommodate only 50 Covid-19 patients at their facility and that the beds are already fully occupied.
“We do not have any space. The hospital is full. Covid-19 patients are coming but we have nowhere to put them, so we are sending them away,” Dr. Kikundwa said.
The hospital is also facing a challenge of shortage of ventilators and medical staff to handle the overwhelming number of patients. The hospital has only 21 ventilators out of which only 12 are being used to treat Covid-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Mr. Peter Mulindwa, the head of marketing and communications at International Hospital Kampala (IHK), said they have designated 25 beds for Covid-19 patients and that they can only admit more when some patients have been discharged.
“On a daily basis, many people call while others come to seek medical attention at the hospital. When they find that we have discharged someone, they are admitted but if they do not find any free space, we are referring them to other hospitals,” Mr. Mulindwa said.
Mr. Mulindwa said their Covid-19 unit is being managed by two Covid-19 specialists and two doctors who work in shifts.
Just like other private facilities, Kibuli Muslim Hospital is also facing the same issue.
Mr. Siraj Mbulambago, the hospital administrator, said, for this reason, they can only accommodate 15 Covid-19 patients per day.
“We are only handling mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 at our facility. We have designated one ward at the hospital towards the treatment of Covid-19 patients and those whose conditions turns critical are referred to other facilities,” Mr Mbulambago said.
Kibuli Muslim Hospital is currently faced with a challenge of inadequate PPEs like gloves and masks for their staff, and also a limited number of staff.
Dr. Daniel Taremwa, the director of TMR International Hospital, Naalya, a Kampala suburb, said they are able to attend to only 20 Covid-19 patients on a daily basis given the high costs involved in treating the deadly disease.
He said the facility can accommodate another 10 patients, but they cannot afford more medical personnel to attend to them.
“Most patients cannot afford the bills and we cannot support them because we also have to pay other bills. We have eight doctors and four specialists who are supposed to be paid,” Dr. Taremwa said.
At Case Hospital in the city center, Dr. Fauz Kavuma, who heads the Covid-19 isolation and management unit at the facility, said they are admitting 22 patients on a daily basis. The facility charges Shs3.5 million per day for patients who are in High Dependency Unit (HDU) and Shs5 million per day for patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU).