| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

Uganda hospitals run short of oxygen amid spike in COVID-19 cases

Uganda is running short of medical oxygen in its referral hospitals, health officials said on Tuesday.

This came at a time when the number of COVID-19 patients has been increasing in the country.

According to the Health Ministry, at least 1,000 daily new cases of COVID-19 have been registered over the past two weeks, and that 9% of them needed to be put on oxygen.

The regional referral hospitals in the country located in Entebbe, Jinja, Lira, Mbale, Soroti, Masaka, and Gulu towns have said that they are overwhelmed by the huge number of COVID-19 patients in need of oxygen and that the amount of oxygen and its production capacity does not match the need.

Dr. Nathan Onyach, the director of Masaka Hospital, said their oxygen plant broke down and consequently some patients in need of oxygen support died of suffocation.

Lira Hospital spokesman Denis Otto said: “We lack oxygen. What we have is not enough. For example, we now have only 13 oxygen cylinders yet the patients supposed to be on oxygen are 15.”

At Jinja Hospital, 10 people died due to insufficient oxygen support at the hospital over the past week. Charles Isaka, the hospital spokesman, said that they are overwhelmed by the big number of COVID-19 patients turning up daily at the hospital.

Godfrey Baterana, the executive director of Mulago Hospital in the capital Kampala, said that the demand for oxygen by COVID-19 patients has outpaced the manufacturing capacity.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that we soon get enough oxygen,” Baterana added.

Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary at the Health Ministry, said the demand for oxygen is very high due to the increase in numbers of COVID-19 patients at high dependency and intensive care units.

“The number of COVID-19 patients has risen tremendously. It is unfortunate that we have a shortage of oxygen in the country. We are trying to get more oxygen plants. We are working on the procurement of more oxygen plants,” Atwine said.

Last month, authorities in Uganda said that the country had entered the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s President Yoweri Museveni banned travel from one district to another as one of the measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Private hospitals have stocked oxygen and are expensively charging the patients who go there for treatment.

“They charged me 1 million shillings ($283) each day at a private hospital. They are cheats,” said 70-year-old Keneth Kasajja.

Uganda has so far registered 63,099 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 434 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.​​​​​​​