The Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has revealed that over 20 billion shillings has to date been spent on procuring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect health workers from contracting COVID-19.
“The Government of Uganda has to date procured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth over 20 billion shillings. Government has also engaged local industries to reorient their services to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment,” said Aceng on Saturday.
She added that beginning June 2020, face masks including KN 95, surgical masks, coveralls, face shields, aprons and gumboots largely started being produced within the country.
Aceng also noted that every two weeks, Personal Protective Equipment is distributed to districts and points of entry to ensure availability for health worker protection.
However, despite that tremendous effort, 27 frontline health workers are among 685 COVID-19 confirmed cases in Uganda.
“In Uganda to date, a total of 27 frontline health workers have tested positive for COVID-19,” said Aceng.
Various Members of Parliament especially those on the opposition side have recently questioned how frontline health workers contracted the disease yet Parliament passed a supplementary budget which aimed at among others procuring Personal Protective Equipment for frontline health workers.
It is well documented that the pandemic has disproportionately affected healthcare workers, not in Uganda but world over.
It is estimated that the infected healthcare workers contribute about 7% of all global COVID-19 infections.
In total, 450,000 healthcare workers have been infected worldwide.
Countries, where the burden of the disease is highest, have registered many healthcare worker deaths.
By the beginning of June, the United States is estimated to have lost 600 healthcare workers and nearly 200 in the United Kingdom.
Fortunately, Uganda has not registered any healthcare worker related deaths.
“It is therefore imperative that we continue to protect frontline health workers adequately and offer them optimal care if infected with respect and dignity,” Aceng said.
The Ministry of Health she said routinely tests health workers working in isolation facilities, at points of entry every after two weeks based on the high exposure to COVID-19.
Upon confirmation of the first infected health worker in Uganda in Lira Regional Referral Hospital, teams of experts specialized in infection prevention and control, case management, and psychosocial management were deployed at various isolation facilities that registered cases to assess and investigate the possible causes of infection.
To curb the challenge, Aceng said various remedies such as continuous training of case management and training of cohorts, ensuring continuous training in infection prevention and control especially in the procedures of wearing and removing of protective wear, continuous counseling and mentoring to ensure that health workers adhere to Standard Operating Procedures among others have been conducted.
“We take note that this is a delicate area that health workers have to have adequate practice over and over again.”