Dr. Sabrina Kitaka, a senior pediatrician eulogized the late Dr. Arach: “Whilst she awaited her graduation, she worked diligently at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital. Her close friends say she was calm and collected. A beautiful woman in and out. Sadly, she was taken ill and needed evacuation to Kampala for ICU care. She did not make it. Our hearts and thoughts are with her young family and friends during this time.”
Just last week, following stories of health workers failing to afford critical care services and others being detained in private facilities for failure to pay, Victoria Hospital had to write off a bill of more than UGX 25 million for Dr. John Baptist Mukasa, a Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon who succumbed to the viral respiratory disease.
The health workers say this is not sustainable and government ought to come up with a solution or else health workers will soon start staying away from duty for fear of getting infected. Dr Rodrigo Nyinoburyo for instance says a colleague spent three weeks in ICU and his family were charged 100 million Shillings after he died shortly after he was weaned from ICU. He says his colleagues were forced to contribute to clear the bill for the body to be released.
Idro revealed that they had talked to regional referral hospitals to select a focal person to ensure that health workers are prioritized for care once they fall critically ill. As it is now, however, unionists say even as the government has placed an advert to hire more personnel to work in COVID-19 wards, it’s had to attract especially young doctors.
Usher Owere, the General Secretary of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) says treating the health workers in the same places where they have seen others die can be quite devastating. He too recommends having a special treatment centre for health workers that need critical care.
On his part, Sanya says Uganda has blundered by continuously ignoring health insurance as this could have helped cover expenses for health workers. He says the government should pay even for health workers who end up in private facilities for treatment of COVID-19.
However, according to Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwiine, there’s a law that provides for compensation of workers when they are injured or infected in line of duty and that Workers’ Compensation Act of 2006 will be followed for compensation of health workers too.
Meanwhile, since the first wave, health workers have been pushing for a special package that has since failed to come through. To guard against them getting infected some districts have made it mandatory for the health workers to get vaccinated.
Already they are among the first category that have been prioritised by the government to get COVID-19 vaccines but the uptake was low. Amuru District COVID- 19 Taskforce stopped all medical workers who skipped vaccination against coronavirus from accessing health facilities.
The Resident District Commissioner, Geoffrey Osborn Ocheng, who also doubles as Amuru District COVID- 19 Taskforce Chairperson, said that they gave the medical workers four days to take the jab.
He explained that 80% of the patients who tested positive for COVID-19 didn’t present any symptoms, which he says exposes health workers to the risk of infection. “We are compiling their records to ascertain the number that has embraced the vaccination and those are the numbers that will access the facilities,” Dr. Olwedo said.
Only about 10 per cent of the 344 medical workers deployed in 33 health facilities in the district have reportedly taken the Coronavirus jab. Gloria Akao, the in-charge Awee Health Centre II in Lamogi Sub County, says that all the 11 health workers at the facility have taken their first dose of the vaccine and are waiting for the second jab.