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Mugeni: A Letter to All My Professional Colleagues in Uganda Handling Covid-19

UAS – 11 November 2020: Editor, I have painfully read about colleagues in health succumbing to Covid-19.

As positive Covid-19 cases in the world are reaching record numbers which is reflected in the increase of patients receiving care in hospitals and clinics, risks to healthcare workers should be anticipated.

There must be attempts to prepare for a surge by implementing safety measures and ensuring we have the necessary supplies.

It is disheartening for a doctor, nurse, a clinical officer or anyone in the medical line dying saving lives.

Each time I read about death of a health worker I keep asking myself what could have gone wrong? Of course, there are challenging conditions especially in our poorly supported healthcare systems.

My memories always rush back to the 2000 Ebola epidemic that saw Dr. Mathew Lukwiya pay the ultimate price of sacrificing to save lives in an environment where supplies to maintain SOPs were missing.

Unfortunate is that as health workers, we are totally not in control of our systems especially the finances that would make us run our systems efficiently.

Finding ourselves having to negotiate for personal protective gears and the rest of it from inefficient governments make our work risk laden.

Our greatest strength, however, is you – our colleagues and providers. It is because of your determination, resilience and ardent commitment to others, that healthcare continues to protect and meet the needs of our patients and community.

Thank you for being the last line of defense even for the mightiest of men and women, the Uganda military.

As we move forward, let us galvanize our support in remaining calm, focused and healthy. Given ongoing community spread, let us while at work and at home remain vigilant in wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing hand hygiene. Encourage our community by leading by example, as a health care professional in the community.

While at hospitals, please help support  each other in the enforcement of our safety protocols, including visitor guidelines, and see that all support persons must wear masks at all times, including when in the patient’s rooms.

While it is uncertain how long the surge will continue, let us remain committed to ensuring our facilities, operations and colleagues are equipped to continue to serve all those who count on us for care.

There is surge in populations and the political campaigns can only make our situation worse but this is something that should not take us health workers by surprise.

We need to start reallocating staff to support areas in need, and enlisting the assistance of the thousands of unemployed/undeployed workers and other ancillary staff, where appropriate.

I greatly, must appreciate your understanding and willingness to work in roles or locations that may be different than what you are used to during this time. We must save humanity on which our profession rotates.

The internet introduces Telehealth, something I have done to support so many members of my community and it  remains widely available to provide personalized care to other clinic patients safely from the comfort of their homes.

I get calls as far as Uganda; patients consulting me just for making myself available for such service and making necessary referrals.

Thank you to the many colleagues and providers who are owning it, and making these necessary changes.

This is a difficult time for many – physically, emotionally and mentally.

It is the willingness and dependability of our colleagues and providers to do what it takes to serve the needs of our community, especially during challenging times, that differentiates us the people in special uniform.

Our other armed colleagues, the military should learn from us that not all heroes are armed with guns.

Thank you for your dedication to our healing ministry. We will get through this, and we will do it together.

And to our families you are our unsung heroes: imagine a husband, a wife or any other member of the family who goes out there putting the whole household at risks, the uncertainties of living with a household member who you don’t know when they will make everyone sick. Thank you, thank you.

James William Mugeni is a Medical Clinical Officer/Certified Public Manager

Email: wmungadi@gmail.com

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