BWERA, Uganda (AP) – The isolation ward for patients with Ebola virus disease 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 Ugandan border town died after the epidemic of the virus that spread from neighboring Congo, the hospital could not find a vehicle to carry the body for several hours.
"We do not really have an isolation ward," Pedson Buthalha, director of Bwera Hospital, told The Associated Press. "It's just a tent. To be honest, we can not accommodate more than five people. "
Medical workers leading the Ugandan Ebola response deplore what they call limited support at a time when infected members of an infected Congolese-Ugandan family came forward, one vomiting blood. Three have died since.
While Ugandan authorities view health workers as "heroes" and say they are ready to contain the virus, some workers disagree. They wonder where the millions of dollars spent on Ebola preparedness go if a front-line hospital lacks basic supplies.
"Even the gloves are not enough," said Thursday the hospital administrator. "I give them little kid." A nurse nodded.
The World Health Organization said Friday that the Ebola outbreak was an "extraordinary event" of great concern, but did not deserve to be declared a global emergency yet. Such a declaration usually triggers more funding, resources and political attention. The WHO said that it took $ 54 million to end the epidemic.
And yet, Congo and Uganda seemed to be pushing against a statement, with the Congo considering Ebola cases related to Uganda as its own, stating that the Congo was the only one in the country. where family members had started to develop symptoms. Ugandan authorities said on Friday that they had only one suspected case of Ebola left in the country.
More than 1,400 people have died since the outbreak of this epidemic in August in eastern Congo, one of the most troubled regions in the world, where rebel attacks and community resistance have harmed the work of the fighting. against the Ebola virus. The virus can spread quickly through close contact with the body fluids of infected people and can be fatal in 90% of cases. Identifying people who may have been exposed is crucial.
Although Ugandan health workers are not facing violent attacks that have killed several Ebola survivors in Congo, they remain at risk as they seek to isolate, test and treat the virus. Basic equipment such as gloves is essential.
At least two nurses from Bwera Hospital may have been exposed while providing first aid to the infected family. They and some other contacts have since been quarantined at home. The WHO says that at least 112 such contacts have been identified in Uganda since the outbreak that crossed the neighboring border.
A nurse, who requested anonymity to avoid any retribution, asked why some people likely to have been exposed to Ebola are allowed to stay at home.
"I would like us to coordinate," said the hospital administrator about apparent confusion about how to handle the epidemic.
Ugandan Health Minister Jane Aceng told AP on Saturday that Kasese district officials were held responsible for the lack of medical supplies after delaying submitting their budget.
"It's clearly up to the district to order supplies," she said. "If they did not run the orders, we can not stock them because we do not know how long they need." Regarding the modernization of the improvised insulation service in the hospital garden, she said: "It is not economical, building permanent structures is not profitable."
Uganda has faced several epidemics of Ebola and is a regional leader in the fight against Ebola, although this part of the country has never experienced an epidemic. Some Ugandan doctors were deployed during the 2013-2016 West Africa epidemic, the deadliest in history.
Health workers involved in this epidemic are now benefiting from an experimental but effective vaccine against the widely used Ebola virus, with more than 130,000 doses distributed. Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers, and more vaccinations will begin Saturday.
Nevertheless, corruption is widespread and many local people scorn government officials considered out of touch.
While the Bwera hospital was trying to organize a safe burial for one of the first victims of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, officials quickly realized there was no vehicle. The burial took place a few hours later and in the dark, what some locals have called a sign of the government's shortcomings.
"It should have been done by the health office, the district health office," said Moses Mugisa, clerk of the border town of Mpondwe-Lhubiriha, who finally found a means of transport for the body.
In addition, he added, the voluntary health teams tasked with detecting the Ebola virus at the border have been without pay for about four months. He criticized the decision of government officials in Kampala, the capital, to surrender only briefly after the announcement of the first case of Ebola in Uganda.
"We have a lot of work to do," he said.
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