Africa-Press – Uganda. As government rolls out the Covid-19 vaccination exercise to health centre IIIs, the Kabale District health department says the rugged terrain hinders the government’s well intended project to combat the spread of Covid-19. The vaccination was launched in March, one year after the first coronavirus case was identified. The exercise started at Mulago National Referral hospital before it was later rolled to regional referral hospitals, district hospitals and health centre IVs. In mid-April, the vaccination drive was extended to health centre IIIs to bring the services nearer to the people.The assistant district health officer, Mr Oliver Namanya, at the weekend said there is need for the government to release special funds to facilitate health workers who can conduct out-reach programmes at villages.“Kabale being a mountainous district with rugged terrain, the elderly find it hard to walk to the health centres to get vaccinated. Our health workers have to risk their lives to use dugout canoes and engine boats to deliver the vaccines to Bwama Health Centre III on Bwama Island on Lake Bunyonyi,” Mr Namanya said.
Bwama Health Centre III serves people living in the 29 Islands on Lake Bunyonyi besides hundreds of patients who come from the neighbouring sub-counties of Bubare, Muko and Bufundi in Rubanda District and Rubaya, Butanda, Kamuganguzi and Kitumba in Kabale District.Mr Namanya added: “We have been using the Primary Health Care (PHC) funds to facilitate the vaccination exercise but it is too little.”
Last week, the senior public relations officer at the Ministry of Health, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, with officials from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), launched the Covid-19 vaccination exercise at Butanda Health Centre III in Kabale, about 50Kms away from Kabale Town and Bwama Health Centre III in Bwama Island in Lake Bunyonyi.
Mr Ainebyoona revealed that government plans to equip all health facilities operating in Island areas with modern ambulance boats to transport patients and health workers across the lakes for general health service delivery.“We expect financial support from the GAVI fund to help us in getting these modern boat ambulances. The Ministry of Health has already procured three boat ambulances for Islands on Lake Victoria,” Mr Ainebyoona said.
Ms Jackie Tukamushaba and Mr Jonathan Kamagara, all residents of Bufundi Sub-county, said lack of reliable means of transport on Lake Bunyonyi is the main challenge to the patients that require health services The locals claim the available engine boats owned by private businessmen are expensive while the locally-made dugout canoes are risky and have on several occasions capsized and killed occupants because of strong water waves.
Cost of transport
Ms Tukamushaba said the government should provide reliable and safe means of transport on Lake Bunyonyi for the safety of patients, school-going children.“Hiring an engine boat to transport a patient from other Islands and peninsulas on Lake Bunyonyi to Bwama Health Centre costs between Shs15,000 and Shs75,000 depending on the distance covered. Boarding a private engine boat ranges between Shs2,000 and Shs5,000. Majority patients in this rural community cannot afford to raise this money thus opting for self-medication using local herbs, ” Ms Tukamushaba said.
Mr Namanya said ever since Covid-19 broke out in the country, about 478 cases of the virus were received at Kabale Regional Referral hospital. Of the total Covid-19 cases, 13 people died while the rest got healed. Kabale District has received 4,000 doses of Covid-19 and so far 2,226 people have been vaccinated against the pandemic.