Uganda doctors fight COVID-19
Uganda Private Medical Practitioners seek inclusion in fight against COVID-19. PHOTO/CNN Philippines

Coronavirus: Private medical practitioners ask the Ministry of Health for inclusion in the fight against COVID-19 spread in Uganda

Uganda doctors under their umbrella Society of Uganda Private Medical Practitioners Limited are asking for inclusion by the Ministry of Health in the fight against COVID-19 spread in Uganda.

This Society consists of all private medical workers who are saying they have not yet been contacted by the Ministry yet many people are already flocking pharmacies and private hospitals asking for tests.

Zubairi Kisambira, Secretary-General of the Society while appearing on NBS television asked the government to include them in the fight because their lives are at stake since they don’t have the knowledge and the testing equipment for the new coronavirus yet people are coming in asking for services.

“First of all I want to thank the Ministry of Health for the work they have done so far to curb the spread of the pandemic worldwide as well as a country Uganda because as we do it today we are also contributing to the world as well,” Zubairi said.

“However, it’s very sad that they have not yet involved us, they have not contacted us as yet, because we don’t know why? However we are over 2000 medics operating in private facilities in Kampala alone but if you consider the whole country we are in the tenth of thousands private practitioners, that means we have more hubs that patients can easily access than the government does, and if you look at the contribution of health services to this nation it’s beyond 78 per cent of our contribution and the government it’s the contribution it’s less than 20 per cent,” Zubairi added.

Kisambira says the Ministry should engage them, by providing training, give them the contactless thermometers and testing kits adding up to what they have and work together as a team because if it’s working alone it will be overwhelmed with patients yet they have low numbers of workers.

“This is what we are saying that we have something to offer to the government, without terms and conditions, because we are already providing them, patients are coming to our places only that we are incapacitated to provide the service we are supposed to provide,” Kisambira said.

“If you have been following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a very new disease on board and we don’t have the diagnostic kits in our facilities as private, even the things we would use to start with prices have been hiked on the market like all the medical supplies prices are high now, we can’t access them. What do we need from government, they have a budget, why can’t they provide us with some of the things to protect ourselves, protect the community and meet some of the things that the community needs,” he added.

Uganda doctors fight COVID-19
Uganda Private Medical Practitioners seek inclusion in fight against COVID-19. PHOTO/CNN Philippines

Kisambira says private medical practitioners’ needs to be involved on the table by involving them in planning, decision making and setting up measures to help all medical workers protect themselves and stop the spread of the pandemic. In his view, their leadership has a role to play at some level, not at the lower level.

“As you see the pandemic itself, it’s not something small to deal with, even the country itself had underestimated it and now it’s causing problems of lockdown. The president has just announced that public transport has been put down. This is what we are saying that since we are not like the people involved directly in decision making, planning and everything for this country, to the extent that people in the private practice out there want to distance ourselves from them (patients).”

He adds that pharmacists have already hiked prices of things that are uncalled for; they can’t access supplies at affordable prices and according to him, no prudent worker who would raise the price of something if all medical workers in Uganda are together.

Kisambira says they have been using contact thermometers which can expose them to the risk of contracting the virus and in the meantime, they can’t access contactless thermometers because prices have been hiked.

“The thermometers we have are used in circumstances that they have to get directly to the patient in contact, and if you use it to one patient, it’s very difficult for you to re-use it over and over again most especially in this case of the pandemic that it can easily get attached to such surfaces and be passed over to someone else,” he said.

“We would have procured this equipment ourselves, however, the prices have been hiked, the infrared thermometers have been costing 150,000 previously before the pandemic but now it’s at 900,000. No, we are saying who is there to regulate these prices, NDA can do its role, the government, the president can do a role, come out and dictate the prices of these things, so that we can access these things, the only saviour is the government because there’s no way we are going to chase patients away otherwise we are going to work contrary to the oath that we made,” he added.

However, Kisambira expressed worries that after the suspension of elective surgeries and procedures from referral hospitals, there’s going to be an influx of patients in private hospitals.

“It’s very obvious that the suspension of elective surgeries at referral hospitals is going to cause an influx, and it’s absurd that we don’t have yet directives from the Ministry of Health as well as the National Drug Authority and other agencies as the council that regulate our operation, guidelines which are going to help us work through this situation.”