Uganda’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed capacity stands at close to 300, in the event that there are Coronavirus patients that require critical support.
Figures regarding the country’s bed stock for Intensive Care have not been clear in recent days, with different health officials stating giving different figures.
However, Health Minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng on Thursday placed the total of these beds at 480, although a breakdown of the different figures she gave puts the total figure at about 288.
She said that Mulago national referral hospital currently has a stock of 36 adult and 27 pediatric ICU beds while the Specialized Women’s Neonatal Hospital at Mulago has 35 adult beds and 30 pediatric beds.
On average, each of the 16 Regional Referral Hospitals has 10 beds, which when combined total to 160, Dr Aceng said. These exclude ICU units in private health facilities.
Intensive care units cater to patients with severe or life threatening illnesses and injuries, which require constant care, close supervision from life support equipment and medication in order to ensure normal bodily functions. They are staffed by highly trained physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists who specialize in caring for critically ill patients.
ICUs are also distinguished from general hospital wards by a higher staff-to-patient ratio and to access to advanced medical resources and equipment that is not routinely available elsewhere.
Common equipment in an ICU includes mechanical ventilators to assist breathing through an endotracheal endotracheal tube or a tracheostomy tube and cardiac monitors for monitoring Cardiac condition.
The Minister was Thursday commenting on the readiness of the country to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic which has s far killed infected close to one million people globally. Uganda so far had 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Regarding the stock of beds (general) on which the patients will be admitted in the event that cases continue to surge, Dr Aceng said there are 3,650 beds across the country. These are as follows; 900 beds (Mulago hospital), 450 beds (Women Specialized hospital, Mulago), 480 (at the 16 Regional referral hospitals), 1,000 beds (at the 50 general hospitals) and 820 beds (at the 164 health centre IVs).
This stock would still allow other regular medical services to go on concurrently in the said health facilities.
“Working with the private sector and the private not for profit, bed capacity will be increased as and when required,” the Minister told reporters.
Under the case management plan, positive cases will be managed in designated health facilities within the district or referred as per the referral guidelines. Mild and moderate cases will be managed at the district level while severe and critical cases (those that require oxygen therapy and ICU) will be referred to the Regional Referral Hospitals. District level
Health officials also said that in order to ensure that international standards are met in order to avoid scenarios of fake positives or fake negatives, the testing for COVID-19 will in the meantime remain centralized at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).
Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director of UVRI revealed that all the testing kits are being evaluated to ensure they are approved by WHO and FDA before government can consider allowing the private sector to conduct tests.
He also said some samples have proved complicated. He described them as “borderline samples” which do not tend to be as definitive as others.
He cited the case of the parents of the 8-month-old baby who tested positive.
“There are samples that are a little complicated. We have consulted some other countries. These are borderline samples like that in Iganga and Adjumani. We are repeating tests on the specimen and as soon as we have them, we shall tell you. This is normal,” Prof Kaleebu said.
He said that under the circumstances, UVRI which is the national testing centre, is not yet overwhelmed. “However, if the epidemic expands, we want to be ready. We are taking an inventory of what other labs have”.
On human resources, Minister Aceng said the staffing has been reinforced with specialist doctors from the UPDF plus additional 82 medical personnel also from UPDF.
The Ministry is in the process of recruiting 220 health workers of different categories to support response.
She also said that 310 ambulances have been deployed at the Central and District level to facilitate the evacuation of positive cases.