MPs want UPDF to Airlift Arua Covid-19 samples

MP Fungaroo (R) shares a light moment with Sandra Ewaecabo (L) as Paul Bishop Drileba (C) looks on before the meeting on Wednesday

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MP Fungaroo (R) shares a light moment with Sandra Ewaecabo (L) as Paul Bishop Drileba (C) looks on before the meeting on Wednesday
MP Fungaroo (R) shares a light moment with Sandra Ewaecabo (L) as Paul Bishop Drileba (C) looks on before the meeting on Wednesday

Arua – The Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting on Government Assurances Committee have asked UPDF to consider using their Helicopters to transport coronavirus samples from Arua to Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe for testing.

The MPs made the demand following reports that Arua regional referral hospital administration and Arua district task force members were facing challenges in transporting and receiving Covid-19 results from UVRI.

This is after Dr. Philbert Nyeko, the Arua Hospital Director revealed that results of Covid-19 samples taken to UVRI normally take two weeks to come out.

“We take samples and it takes two weeks for the results to come back, it is painful!” Dr Nyeko reported during the Parliamentary committee working visit to Arua on Wednesday.

The committee chaired by Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, the Obongi County MP was in Arua as part of the countrywide fact-finding mission on Covid-19 assurances made by the government through the Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda.

In Arua, the committee was interested in the funds and other logistics the government promised to extend to the regional referral hospital and the district Covid-19 task force.

But during the meeting, Nyeko said the two Covid-19 quarantine centres are virtually closed due to the delays of results and in adequate food for the people quarantined.

“We are incurring very high costs in the unit because of the delays. Right now, it’s better but when everywhere was locked, we were buying food at shs60, 000 per person per day and ten days’ delay would mean we spend additional shs600, 000 per person per day and that has been hurting us,” Nyeko said.

Nyeko also reported that as a hospital, they didn’t receive the ten intensive care beds and facilities of any kind as promised by the government. He added that they didn’t equally get any Ambulance for purposes of Covid-19 but got some money from the Ministry of Health and other food relief items from the office of the Prime Minister.

Similarly, Paul Bishop Drileba, the Acting Arua District Health Officer noted that people in the quarantine centres in Arua have on several occasions, escaped after waiting for their results in vain thus putting the members of the community at risk of contracting the disease.

It is for this reason that MP Fungaroo wondered why the UPDF can’t offer some of their Helicopters to help Arua in transporting Covid-19 samples to Entebbe as a solution to the challenge.

“We can not accept the Army to fail, if these people have failed to transport samples within the record time, the UPDF should come in to help them. If it requires a Helicopter, we have an Airport here in Arua and I know UPDF have standby Choppers to help, and if they are not there, we can pick the one of the President to help these people of Arua,” Fungaroo suggested, attracting a loud applause from the members of the meeting.

“These Covid-19 samples only require lifting, so the UPDF Jet fighters can even lift them without shooting,” Fungaroo stressed.

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He, however, promised that the committee is going to look into all other concerns raised by the hospital director and the district Covid-19 task force members, a reason they are in Arua.

Meanwhile on the use of UPDF Helicopters, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso, a member of the committee said they are going to present the demand to the leadership of the Army to decide on depending on the logistics at hand.

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