Uganda Ebola medics struggle with lack of supplies

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(14 Jun 2019) Medical workers leading the Ugandan effort against Ebola cite many challenges in their work and lament what they say is limited support in the days since some members of Congolese-Ugandan family reported there and later were found to be infected with Ebola.
The isolation unit is a tarpaulin tent erected in the garden of the only Ugandan hospital taking Ebola patients in a frontier town near the Congo border.
Protective gloves are given out sparingly, and when Ebola claimed its second victim since the outbreak spread to Uganda, for many hours Bwera Hospital could not find a vehicle to take away the body.
Although Ugandan health officials have said they have in place an intensive apparatus to contain the spread of Ebola, health workers on the ground disagree, often wondering where millions of dollars spent on preparing Uganda for Ebola have been spent if the hospital lacks basic supplies.
Pedson Buthalha, administrator of Bwera Hospital, said it had been “specifically selected” to manage any outbreaks, but the space in its isolation unit was “not adequate” and they might not have enough drugs for every patient.
A World Health Organisation expert committee will meet Friday on whether to declare the Ebola outbreak a global health emergency after cases spread from Congo into Uganda.
If they decide yes, it would almost certainly mean an increase in international attention toward the region’s Ebola crisis, including funding for on-the-ground activities.
Nearly 1,400 people have died in Congo’s outbreak since August.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health cited at least 27 Ebola contacts since the death of a five-year-old boy, the first victim, whose Congolese-Ugandan family crossed into Uganda on June 9 after participating in an unsafe burial of a family elder.
Some members of that family came to Bwera, where at least two nurses were exposed while offering first aid.
Those nurses, along with other contacts who say the hospital’s conditions are unsuitable, have since been quarantined in their homes.
Buthalha said “nobody could predict” when Ebola would first strike but staff had managed to identify those who needed to be put in quarantine.
Three Ugandans are currently in Bwera Hospital’s isolation unit.
There have been five positive cases confirmed in Uganda, including the two related victims.
Uganda, which has faced multiple Ebola outbreaks since a major one in 2000 that killed scores, is a regional leader in battling the virus.
Uganda also is more stable than eastern Congo, and for the first time an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine is being widely used, with more than 130,000 doses distributed.
Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers, and the WHO is shipping in another 3,500 vaccine doses this week for health workers and close contacts of those infected.

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