The permanent secretary, ministry of Health, Asuman Lukwago, has said New Mulago hospital will be closed on April 1 and all patients transferred to different hospitals including the newly-refurbished Kawempe general hospital, Kiruddu general hospital and Old Mulago hospital.
He said transfers are being implemented to decongest the hospital and help hasten renovation work and finish before the end of this year. Mulago is the national referral hospital comprising ‘new’ and ‘old’ Mulago hospitals, and is also the biggest health facility in the country.
Since renovation work started in 2014, some ‘wards’ are now housed in the corridors and the congestion problem at the hospital is worse than ever before, because part of the hospital is sealed off.
“We have used Mulago to the maximum and we can’t go ahead as renovations continue and at the same time receive patients,” he said.
Lukwago said more than 3,000 patients are expected to be affected by the transfers and about 2,000 beds will be shifted to the receiving hospitals. Lukwago said this on March 17 while receiving an echo machine worth $200,000 (about Shs 700m) that diagnoses heart problems.
He said Mulago’s heart institute now has five machines that aid in open-heart surgeries. Dr Peter Lwabi, a consultant cardiologist at Mulago’s heart institute, said the echo machine comes with new technology.
It was presented by Egyptian ambassador Ahmed Abdel Aziz Mostafa, who said Egypt will assist Mulago in transferring patients and equipment to different hospitals to make the work fast and safe.
He said the donation from Egypt aims at strengthening the two countries’ relationship. Mostafa called upon Ugandans with complicated heart problems to go to Egypt for open-heart surgery since it is cheaper, starting at $5,000 (Shs 17.5m). He said Egypt has 50 echo machines.
Many Ugandans with complicated heart diseases have been flying to India for treatment and surgery. Dr Lwabi said the donation would boost handling of the increasing cases of open-heart surgery.
“We now perform open-heart surgeries daily at Mulago hospital although we need more equipment since the patients are increasing,” he said.
Lwabi said out of 1,000 cases of heart surgeries received at Mulago annually, they only manage to operate on about 150 adults and 300 children due to lack of equipment and expert heart surgeons.
Mulago currently has three heart surgeons, which Lwabi partly attributed to the long training period required for specialization: eight years. He said the commonest conditions include congenital defects such as “holes in the heart”, high blood pressure and heart attacks in adults due to poor lifestyles and stress related to problems such as bank loans.
The new equipment will help extend open-heart surgery to more patients, including the poor, he said. Patients from the heart institute are set to be moved to the Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago for the duration of the closure.
The institute receives 100 heart patients daily. The cancer institute is notoriously overcrowded already, even with its new building now in operation; it remains to be seen how the two facilities will efficiently share space for at least eight months.
Lwabi advised Ugandans to look out for warning signs of heart disease so that they can be treated quickly.
He pointed out prolonged chest pain, repeated coughs that do not respond to treatment, inactive children, and in some cases stunted children, as possible indicators of unhealthy hearts.
He said the institute needs at least $6m annually to handle heart surgeries, and asked government for more support.