The Ministry of Health has said that 80 per cent of the people who have succumbed to COVID-19 were battling diabetes. As of Monday, Uganda had recorded 75 deaths as a result of COVID-19.
Dr Gerald Mutungi, who heads the Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Division in the Ministry says that Non-Communicable Diseases have had the most causalities because many people went off their hypertensive drugs during the lockdown and the onset of community transmission found their immune systems already down.
He added that many people didn’t heed to their appeal of picking refills of up to three months to limit trips to the health facilities, and as a result, even as their programmes in the Ministry are targeted at reducing the burden, they are seeing an increase instead.
Christopher Kwizera, the Executive Director of an NGO Uganda NCD Alliance said the government take the blame for this as they gave up on pre-existing conditions and put all efforts on combating COVID-19 to the extent that NCD clinics in some hospitals were closed and they remain closed to date.
He said even as the government has realized that majority of those dying of COVID, also battle NCDs, they have not included NCD treatment packages in the programmes giving an example of Entebbe Grade B Hospital that is managing COVID but the closed the NCDs clinic.
At Mengo hospital, Dr Susan Nakireka, a physician at the NCDs clinic says patients who made it to their clinic presented with a lot of complications that they had to pay expensively for their treatment. She said that the approach used by the government to require people to pick more refills was untenable since it meant more expenditure for drugs that are often of a high price.
Because of this, she predicts, a lot of people battling NCDs might have died without care in the community considering that some didn’t come back for medication even after the lockdown was lifted.
Mutungi acknowledged drug shortages and adds that while NCDs can be treated at lower health facilities including Health Centre IIIs, they often got reports of stockouts and instead encouraged those that had a chance of free drugs to last a month, to buy the extra two months refills to make them the recommended three months doses.
But, Mutungi says now with the COVID-19 experience, they are planning to borrow a model from HIV of doing deliveries of NCD medications at home.