Patients seeking to access theatre services at Mulago may have to wait as the National Referral Hospital is booked till 2019.
Officials at the hospital say the surgical department is booked until next year due to the ongoing renovation work that has led to the closure of all units that were previously located in Old Mulago.
One of the most affected departments is the surgical department that was transferred from Old Mulago to Upper Mulago. At the moment, surgical theatres within the outpatient and in-patient wards at the hospital are booked at least six months ahead.
Dr. Rosemary Nassange, Head Directorate of Surgical Services at Mulago Hospital, says that due to the limited space in upper Mulago, less surgeries are taking place which has led to a backlog.
According to Dr. Nassanga, before the renovation works started, there were a total of 20 theatres where different surgical procedures were carried out in the hospital. Today, there are only 12 theatres available at Upper Mulago.
On average, only 60 operations take place a week now compared to the 100-plus when the theatres of both lower and upper Mulago were operational. As a result, the waiting lists for some departments at the hospital are more than a year long. For instance, patients that need surgical care at the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department at the hospital now have to wait until June 2019 to be attended to.
The most affected surgeries at the moment are breast cancer, plastic surgery, paediatric surgery, orthopaedic, ophthalmology and ENT complications. At the moment, the departments under which these complications are handled are sharing theatres.
Dr. Nassanga says that the number of beds in some units has been reduced by more than half and as a result, they can only operate on a few emergency cases that they can properly look after before and after operations.
In addition to having limited space, Dr. Nassanga points out that the constrained labour force within her department is not helping matters.
According to Dr. Nassanga, there are only seven anaesthesiologists at Mulago that are currently shared between Mulago, Kawempe and Kiruddu referral hospitals. She says that often surgeries are scheduled depending on the availability of anaesthesiologists.
Dr. Nassanga further explains that lack of necessary equipment is also another reason why her department is overbooked until next year.
Dr. Nassanga says that as a result of being overbooked, major surgeries are being given precedence over all minor surgeries. Those that are not deemed life-threatening are on the waiting list. Conditions such as hernia and tonsillitis are pushed to the back of the waiting list as breast cancer patients are given priority.
Renovation works at the hospital started in October 2014 and were estimated to last 24 months. However, to date the works are still ongoing.
Enock Kusasira, Mulago Public Relations Officer, says that with the closure of lower Mulago the backlog of cases was expected.
Kusasira says that the wait, however, shall come to a stop when works at Mulago stop. Once the renovation works are complete at the hospital, the number of surgical suites is expected to increase.
In the ongoing works, a two-storied theatre block consisting of 25 theatres has been constructed. Kusasira says the theatres will be equipped with world class equipment that can be found in the world.