KAMPALA – All patients seeking to screen for cancer and other related diseases will first be tested for coronavirus, the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has announced, days after Uganda recorded her second COVI-19 related deaths.
Dr Jackson Orem, the Executive Director of the Institute who was giving an account of how the institute performed during the just ended Financial Year 2019/2020 announced the development.
He said the institute is waiting for accreditation to conduct Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the standard test method in Uganda from the Ministry of Health and the approval process ends in a week’s time.
“The Uganda Cancer Institute is taking active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on both our patients and staff. We have placed an order of 30,000 COVID-19 antibody tests for our patients and staff,” he said.
The antibody tests will serve as a screening test and will be paired with a PCR test which will be offered in collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre.
He added that tests will “enable us to afford more protection to our staff and patients [and] we continue to look for funding to continue supporting the transportation of our staff and patients.”
Dr Orem told reporters that during the last four months, Institute has had to refer some suspected COVID-19 cases for testing elsewhere. While all their referrals finally tested negative, he said cancer patients are at risk of getting fatally affected by COVID-19 and yet the doctors who work on them also risk being exposed especially when they have to conduct surgeries.
Whereas the institute has pushed through the COVID-19 lockdown without encountering major challenges, he says the number of new patients reporting to the institute has increased to 7000, an increase of 2000.
Commenting on regionals centres, he said, “to better provide services to our patients, we are setting up four regional cancer centres in Gulu, Mbarara, Arua and Mbale.”
“The Mbarara Cancer Centre is already operational, and we plan to progressively operationalize the other cancer centres. This year, we will commence construction of the Gulu Cancer Centre as we look for resources to build infrastructure for the other three cancer centres”.