By Max Patrick Ocaido
KAMPALA. The Director General, Ministry of Health Dr. Henry Mwebesa on Friday threw doctors in panic after he revealed that Uganda is at a very high risk of contracting deadly Ebola virus that has ravaged neighboring DR Congo.
Dr. Mwebesa was representing Health minister, Dr Jane Aceng at the 3rd Grande Annual Doctors Conference at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. The conference that also recognized the contribution of late Dr. Margaret Mungherera, former President of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) was attended by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah who was the chief guest.
During the conference, Dr. Mwebesa said Ugandans especially those in the border of Congo, Kampala and Wakiso are at high risk of contracting deadly Ebola virus and tasked the public to be more vigilant of the signs and symptoms that include vomiting, headache and bleeding from body openings.
“The latest information is that we have 344 cases of Ebola in DR Congo and this is a place that is very close to our borders. Initially, we were talking about 100kms, but of late it has come even closer to 50kms from our border and in fact recently, we had 2 people that died exactly at the landing site of L. Albert on the other side of Congo,” Mwebesa said.
“Ebola doesn’t know borders so as a country we are at a very high risk. We had 202 deaths [in Congo] as of yesterday which is about 59%. But as a ministry, with close collaboration with our partners we are doing everything possible to prevent Ebola from coming to our country and in the event that it comes, we have also put up mechanism to treat all cases,” Mwebesa said adding that the ministry has opened up treatment centres in most of the districts at the border.
Mwebesa told the doctors and the general public to develop a very high level of suspicion especially at the airports where there is less focus from health workers.
“We must develop a very high degree of suspicion because we may be focusing at the borders, but you know the airport is open and this puts areas of Kampala and Wakiso at a very high risk too. So you [doctors] may at any time be confronted by a doctor and you may be treating malaria when it’s actually Ebola,” he said.
However, Mwebesa said that there have been lots of false alerts on spread of Ebola virus in Uganda.
“We have tested over 300 cases and by grace of God, they are negative. Sometimes we get so scared because a patient comes and is presented by all these signs of Ebola and we are almost sure it’s Ebola, but our tests prove them negative. And so far we have not yet got any cases in this country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Doctors at their Conference commended government for being supportive at the time when they laid down their tools demanding better welfare including salary enhancement.
“Last year was a significant year for doctors characterized by colour, energy, tension and we commend government for supporting us at the time we needed them most and as a result, we have achieved a lot for example; salaries for medical officers were enhanced to Shs3m from Shs1m, we also realized some improvement in working environment like stock of drugs and increased technologies. Therefore, like our theme states, we pledge to work with leaders in government for better service delivery,” said Prof. Pauline Byakika-Kibwika, the Vice President of UMA.
“Now the billion shilling question is what are we giving back to Ugandans? We pledge that no mother should die because there is no doctor in the hospital and no patient should go unattended to. We are going to fulfill this pledge,” Prof Byakika said.
Chief Guest, Jacob Oulanyah advised Ugandan doctors to keep their heads up and do their duties professionally despite weaknesses from other stakeholders.
“The weaknesses of your partners must not weaken you to fulfill your responsibilities. Partners like government sometimes disappoint, but our bad manners should not affect your good manners because our people depend on you. Do your part, shame will finally come and overpower them [partners] then they will get on board,” Oulanyah said.
Oulanyah also honoured Mungherera’s parents for bringing a gem, a precious stone to this world that changed the medical profession in the country.