Hundreds flock Gulu District Health Offices to be treated for Coronavirus

Gulu –Uganda: As the second wave of Coronavirus viciously rips through people’s lives in Uganda, with high admissions sending many health centers on the brink, many patients being treating under home-based care have expressed concerns on the rising cases of stigma and rejection from their communities.

Mid-last year, Ministry of Health introduced home -based care management for COVID-19 patients after reports emerged that health facilities were overwhelmed by the increasing of treating patients amid limited space for treating them. These system was meant for asymptomatic patients and those with mild cases. The latest report from Gulu District Health Office indicates that a total of 419 COVID -19 patients are undergoing home –based care.

Geoffrey Topiny, the Head of Risk Communication and Community Engagement of Gulu City COVID -19 Taskforce, revealed that his office receives between three and four complaints of stigma from Coronavirus patients undergoing home-based care treatment daily.

Statistics promulgated on 3rd July indicate that out of 4,644 tests conducted, 480 tested positive with coronavirus, 27 died as result of the infection, putting the test positivity rate at 10.3 percent. According to the statistics, 1,099 active cases are on admission at the different health facilities across the country while over 2,000 patients are undergoing treatment from him.

As a result, there has been concerns that from authorities that patients have begun flouting the home-based care guidelines while others have declined to seek medical attention.

“Stigma makes people to hide from seeking medical attention. We need community’s supports because these people are already in the community and they must be supported,” Topiny said, adding, “If they need referral to the health facilities and other necessities, they should be given.”

According Topiny, noted that some of the landlords ordered for the eviction of those patients while other patients have been denied access to buying food items since the locals look at their money as sources of infection. “Every day we receive a handful of calls from the patients reporting cases of their evictions by their landlords, even their neighbors fight them a lot.” Says Topiny.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization –WHO Coordinator for Northern Region says Care International, says they have given 18 million shillings (5049.58U$D) to Gulu City COVID -19 Taskforce to help offer psychological and basic case management support to the patients under home -based care treatment and their care givers.

Santos Comboni Okwera, a resident of Kanyagoga ‘A’ Sub –Ward in Bardege –Layibi Division in Gulu City, is currently nursing seven family members under home –based care management.

When his neighbors, Okwera narrates, learnt of the health status his relatives, they stopped visiting his home, adding that he is has been shunned several times at the market when shopping.

According to Okwera, the area local leaders who were supposed to sensitize the locals against stigmatizing patients undergoing treatment from home, were the ringleaders in perpetrating the vice.

Though home -based care management has helped in decongesting health facilities treating Coronavirus patients, adherence to its guidelines by the patients has not been that easy since most home don’t favor it. Gulu City COVID -19 Taskforce is now planning to open an isolation center for treating patient with mild symptom as an alternative for home –based treatment.

Alfred Okwonga, the Gulu City Mayor who also co-chairs the Gulu City COVID -19 Taskforce, says they also learnt that most homes do not have enough rooms for the patients’ isolation while on treatment. He added that they are thinking of opening an isolation center for treating all those who will be found positive.

“In our community here, some people may test positive and yet you find that they share a house or a hut with many other family members, so if that person is to undergo home –based care, he/she may infect the other family members. Therefore, we recommended for an isolations center to be opened” Okwonga reveals

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Public Relations Officer of Ministry of Health condemned the act from the locals and appealed to the family members of those patients to offer them all the necessary support during and after treatment. He also asked the patients undergoing home –based care management to remain in isolation until they are declared negative.

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