Partner Perspectives – Kampala during Coronavirus

By Ronald Onegwa, Pharmacist at Kawempe National Referral Hospital, and key member of the Cambridge-Kampala Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention Control project.

Abstract: In this blog we hear from our Ugandan partner, Ronald Onegwa. He talks to us about his experiences of COVID-19 so far, and how the partnership has been supporting.

Like most of us in the global community, Uganda hasn’t been spared COVID-19. Currently we have 160 cases, 55 recoveries, and so far, no fatalities. We have been under lockdown, and like the UK, essential staff such as healthcare workers and the armed forces are at the forefront of the pandemic.

The lockdown is beginning to loosen, though there is still panic and fear among communities, since information relating to treatment is not clear. COVID-19 has also impacted the community negatively in that currently there is a very high rate of gender-based violence. Most people have lost jobs since many work in informal settings. Small business have collapsed to a point were some have even spent their capital on buying food in order to survive. Many families are living on a single meal or going without each day.

Since the start of the pandemic, it has felt like an information overload. It is very difficult to filter and obtain reliable treatment protocols or guidelines. CGHP have been in touch, sharing some of CUH’s weekly treatment protocols and guidelines. This has been helpful to us, because at least you have a picture of how to manage if faced with a COVID-19 case.

Based on my daily role as a pharmacist, and due to the current partnership project on infection prevention and control, the hospital chose to include me in the technical committee on COVID-19. So, my duty is to make sure that alcohol gel is in place at all times and that the alcohol gel dispensers are always filled. I’m also in charge of PPE such as masks, face shields and cover rolls. It’s my duty to ensure that they are always available, whenever they are needed. I am also responsible for ensuring COVID-19 standard operating procedures are followed and monitored. I report to the Deputy Director who oversees operations. Lastly, I am on 24-hour standby in case there is any logistical need in the hospital.

The partnership is also in the process of procuring locally made scrubs for Kawempe National Referral Hospital, for our health care workers in critical areas. We are also going to procure 500 litres of alcohol concentrate to facilitate the continued on-site production of alcohol gel, which I lead on.

COVID-19 has instilled a behaviour change in our patients and staff on the importance of using alcohol gel in mitigating the spread of infections, COVID-19 inclusive. The local production of alcohol gel and the installation of the dispensers within our joint Kampala Cambridge Commonwealth Partnership for Antimicrobial Stewardship was a timely blessing to us as a hospital, because we couldn’t imagine if they weren’t in place how difficult life would now be. Their existence has built confidence and reduced anxiety among the healthcare workers.

Thanks so much to our partners in supporting us during such a difficult time, where everyone is thinking of themselves alone. Amidst all this, Cambridge is willing to help others, we don’t take it for granted but to say we are grateful. Asante Sana.

A grant from the Health Worker Action Fund manged by THET, is enabling the partnership to continue sourcing the components for alcohol gel production and commission locally manufactured scrubs for staff. We are hopeful that there will be subsequent funding rounds, which will enable further COVID-19 support. The partnership continues to support in the sharing of resources, knowledge and experiences through regular virtual meetings.