KAMPALA — To many Ugandans, the fight against Covid-19 was first seen as a political gimmick until they started seeing deaths of the people most famous to them or closely known to them.
Fighting Covid-19 and the formulation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) was at the start seen as the role of only the government without the participation of everyone.
But during President Yoweri Museveni’s initial televised addresses, many Ugandans would see him asking a lot of guiding questions to specifically three women. These women are; Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr Diana Atwine and now Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Monica Musenero.
As the President and the Ministers were leading the battle, behind them was a planner and implementer of most of the directives that would require 24/7 participation of the Ministry of Health. She is Dr Atwine, the Permanent Secretary who since the index case was reported in the country in March, 2020 has been at the technical forefront in the fight against Covid-19.
However, currently, the 48 year-old Dr Atwine who hails from a humble Galilaya village in Kayunga District has been the subject to public rebuke over the allegations in regard to the management and use of the Covid-19 fighting funds from the government and the well wishers.
To Dr Atwine, the allegations and accusations look like the proverbial stones which one must use to build a strong concrete shortly after they are thrown at him or her by individuals of bad repute.
This is exactly what she has been doing by soldiering on with her official mandate hence not getting diverted by the destructive commentary which would have indirectly veered her off the track of fighting the pandemic.
“Some Ugandans who doubted our efforts to fight and manage the first wave of Covid-19 have started raising the propaganda because they have seen unexpected results. Now with the second wave here, those detractors are at it again and this time through vending serious falsehoods because they want to divert some of us from the task at hand” Dr Atwine told this website.
To some of the public figures including politicians who are trading false accusations against Dr Atwine, her message is that they need to do self-evaluation about whether they have played their role in the fight against the pandemic.
“At the start some of the individuals whose names I will not mention because I do need to act like them, were roaming around media houses telling Ugandans how Covid-19 was a political disease. All they cared about was winning the next elections without caring about the Ministry of Health guidelines on political meetings. So, what have they done in fighting this second wave?” she asked.
Dr Atwine, however, has asked Ugandans to focus on the prevention of the virus rather than looking at the individuals who are leading the fight against the pandemic.
She has warned that while Ugandans are desperately debating the false allegations being traded on social media, their primary focus should be the individual protection against being infected by sticking to the SOPs issued by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health.
When all the three Ministers stepped out of office to battle for their Parliamentary seats ahead of the January 14, 2021 elections, it was Dr Atwine who burnt the midnight candles to guide the ministry through the fight against the pandemic.
“I was always in contact with the Ministers and also His Excellency the President who was campaigning across the country because he needed information to keep guiding Ugandans. The task at hand was huge because during campaigns, the cases kept on rising but thank God we managed to bring them down” Said Dr Atwine.
With her at the helm of the Ministry, a lot has been done thanks to the funds released by the government and also the donations that were coming in from local and international organizations.
Critical to the management of serious cases of Covid-19, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds have been installed in the government health facilities that are charged with the task of treating Covid-19 patients. These have been installed in Mulago National Referral Hospital and all the Regional Referral Hospitals to support critical cases.
However, the PS urges Ugandans not to look at the ICU beds as the saviour because if everyone gets sick, the hospitals will be overwhelmed, adding that, what is most paramount is prevention.
“The beds available however can never be enough if we do not control infection rate, just like we have seen in countries with strong health systems. Therefore, we advise all Ugandans to follow the SOPs because critical care is stretched and it should not be you to be the victim of scarcity of beds” she warns.
While ICU beds are being installed, since the outbreak of Covid-19, 1840 general beds have been imported and are in use while 4600 are being locally manufactured which will put the total number of beds in government facilities to 6440.
The government has supported the Ministry of Health with funds to also install oxygen plants of up to 15Nm3/hr in all Regional Referral Hospitals that are able to produce 30 to 40 cylinders of 6800 liters of oxygen per day.
Dr Atwine has recently revealed that the Ministry will soon procure eight more oxygen plants worth 200Nm3/hr to boost the current capacity in the referral hospitals. On top of that, two more 250Nm3/hr oxygen plants are being procured for Mulago hospital and Namboole Stadium treatment centers. There will also be 10,000 oxygen cylinders for mobile distribution.
The Ministry which has procured 98 road ambulances that have been distributed under the regionally coordinated ambulance service system is targeting to cover each of the Health Sub-District (Health Centre IVs) across the country, has also embarked on the provision of water ambulances to serve the people in the islands.
According to information available to this website, the Ministry is expecting 11 new water ambulances to help in evacuating sick people from islands to the regional referral hospitals where critical cases are being managed.
During the first wave, the Ministry of Health procured and distributed to 135 districts 34.1m face masks to be given to the communities and 2.5m masks that were taken to schools.
Because the health facilities continue handling other diseases and giving specialized services, Covid-19 treatment and isolation requires a lot of attention. To cure this, the Ministry of Health procured 20 sleeper tents to expand bed capacity for regional referral hospitals and army facilities where Covid-19 patients are being isolated.
The PS and her team have been working on the construction of the Isolation Center at Entebbe which has been built for the management of such pandemics now and in the future.
Much as most Ugandans are reluctant to take Covid-19 tests, the Ministry of Health continues to encourage people who get alerts and are contacts to those already tested positive to avail themselves for testing.
The testing capacity of the country has increased from 74,000 to 151,000 PCR tests per month while the projections in the ministry are that at least 320,000 PCT tests can be carried out monthly going forward.
Information released by the Uganda Media Centre on July 1 indicates that world statistics have placed Uganda among the top countries managing the pandemic better. This information obtained from the World Statistics Website, the deaths recorded in Uganda being low compared to other countries with similar number of positive cases means that the country is doing better in managing the pandemic.