The death toll from the Ebola outbreak that recently struck Kibaale district, western Uganda and spread to the capitol city, Kampala continues to rise.
A further 15 health workers are also said to have been isolated, all this in a bid to prevent the further spread of Ebola.
Other than President Yoweri Museveni warning citizens to avoid physical contact, his government doesn't seem to have a clear plan on how to fight the spread of the deadly disease. .
Because of its nature, it’s nearly impossible for Ebola to strike and not claim a health worker. When Ebola struck Uganda for the first time in 2000, it claimed the life of Dr Matthew Lukwiya, who was then the medical superintendent of St Mary’s hospital Lacor in Gulu, alongside 12 nurses, among other victims.
Then in 2007, Ebola struck Bundibugyo district claiming another medic Dr John Kule, among other hospital staffs.
It is the third outbreak in a decade and the question that everyone has to ask is: Why has this virus resurfaced after not so many years? What measures were and are in place to deal with outbreaks such as this or like the nodding the disease that continues to ravage Acholi region and parts of Lango?
Does Uganda have the capacity to deal with this kind of crisis effectively? And, due to the nature of the virus, we know that it can quickly spread to neighboring districts, but what measures are in place to contain the disease?
The answer is none! The Ministry of Health says that emergency measures are in place to deal with the outbreak, but can medical staff in Uganda cope with such an epidemic, we are yet to see the kind of resilience, dedication, commitment and love for the suffering victims like that displayed by Dr Matthew Lukwiya (RIP) from anyone in the medical profession in Uganda.
Dr Lukwiya knew that the medical staffs stands out in every epidemic or outbreak of disease, because they are asked to put their lives on the line to save that of other people. There is no greater sacrifice than that.
Yet doctors, nurses and others in the medical profession are the worst trained in the world, they remain some of the worst paid professionals in Uganda today, and are often forced to work under very difficult bureaucratic conditions.
This will always work towards negating the good of the health profession and it will continue to pose a risk to the lives of the ordinary citizen. While a higher salary or improved working conditions will not compensate for lives lost, at least it would be recognition of the specialised training attained and the sacrifices made in the service of others.
The latest Ebola outbreak and the challenge the disease poses for medical professions in Uganda, must serve as a reminder to those in government of their obligation towards citizen, doctors, nurses and the general healthcare system in the country. If the government doesn’t address this problem, Uganda will continue to lose the lives of unsuspecting citizens and those in the medical profession needlessly.
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