Luzira Prisons gets 150 bed capacity for critically ill Covid-19 patients

Luzira Prison

courtesy photo

A 150-bed capacity High Dependency Unit (HDU) is under construction at Luzira Prisons to cater for critical COVID-19 patients.

Dr James Kisambu, the Assistant Commissioner of Health in Uganda Prisons said on Wednesday that they were challenged at the height of the second wave of the pandemic mid this year when they had some prisoners developing severe COVID-19 but couldn’t rush them anywhere because hospitals were full.

He recalls, many times they struggled to access oxygen whenever patients needed it.

As a result, five prisoners, two staff and one relative of their staff succumbed to COVID-19 out of the over two thousand cases that they recorded in Prisons around the country.

Taking lessons from the previous wave, Kisambu says they decided to refurbish one of the prison cells where they used to remand prisoners from the Kampala area and turn it into a fully-fledged HDU.

The facility is being completed using part of the 2 Billion Shillings that the government allocated to them to fight COVID-19 in addition to a $200,000 donation from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) plus another $100,000 donation from the US Centers for Disease Control.

Kisambu said that they have all equipment, beds, and health workers they need and are only doing the final touches to have the facility open in December.

However, he noted that for the last two weeks, no prisoner has tested positive for the viral respiratory disease.

According to Sharon Lesa Nyambe who heads the UNODC Uganda Office, Uganda Prisons has provided a good example of institutions that have managed to curb COVID-19 with limited resources despite dealing with high numbers of people crowding in one place.

Nyambe who was delivering a donation of Oxygen cylinders, Personal Protective Equipment, Air Flow Splitters and non-rebreathe patient masks to help them with COVID-19 care said as social distancing measures and guaranteeing good prison health, the government need to seriously think about non-custodial measures for petty offences.

She applauded the move by the government to start pardoning petty offenders.

Kisambu said they have managed to control infections through following prevention measures to the dot by ensuring all prisoners comply to wearing of masks, testing all new prisoners before mixing them in addition to restricting visiting prisoners to those that are fully vaccinated in addition to having a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before the visit.

By end of last week, 11,000 prisoners had been vaccinated across the country. At any one time, there are about 65,000 prisoners across the country.

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