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'Even the gloves are not enough’…Ugandan medics struggling to fight Ebola

Published:Saturday | June 15, 2019 | 10:28 AM
Pedson Buthalha, administrator of the hospital where the first cross-border Ebola victim was isolated, speaks with The Associated Press in the western Ugandan town of Bwera, near the border with Congo. AP

BWERA, Uganda (AP) — The isolation ward for Ebola patients is a tent erected in the garden of the local hospital.

Gloves are distributed sparingly to health workers.

And, when the second person in this Uganda border town died after the Ebola outbreak spread from neighbouring Congo , the hospital, for several hours, could not find a vehicle to take away the body.

“We don’t really have an isolation ward,” Bwera Hospital administrator, Pedson Buthalha, told The Associated Press.

“It’s just a tent. To be honest, we can’t accommodate more than five people.”

Medical workers leading Uganda’s fight against an outbreak of the Ebola virus have lamented what they call limited support in the days since infected members of a Congolese-Ugandan family showed up, one vomiting blood.

Three have since died.

While Ugandan authorities praise the health workers as “heroes” and say they are prepared to contain the virus, some workers disagree, wondering where the millions of dollars spent on preparing for Ebola have gone if a hospital on the front line lacks basic supplies.

“Even the gloves are not enough,” the hospital administrator said Thursday.

However, Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng told the Associated Press that district officials in Kasese were to blame for limited medical supplies, claiming they delayed submitting their budget.

“It is clearly the responsibility of the district to order supplies,” Aceng said.

“If they haven’t done the orders we can’t supply because we don’t know how much they need.”

As for upgrading the makeshift isolation ward in the hospital garden, the health minister said “it is not economical.”

“It is not cost-effective to build permanent structures,” she reasoned.

At least two nurses at Bwera Hospital may have been exposed to the Ebola virus as they offered first aid to an infected family.

They and some other contacts have since been quarantined in their homes.

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