UGANDA: GULU UNIVERSITY GETS US$ 4.5 M MULTIFUNCTIONAL LABORATORY TO TEST SAMPLES OF COVID-19.

Image of the Multipurpose Research Laboratory at Gulu univesity
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The Multipurpose Research Laboratory at Gulu University for testing infectious diseases including COVID-19 pandemic

Doctors of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital regret referring their COVID-19 pandemic patients to Mulago National Referral Hospital from where most die would not have died.

“I am pleased to inform you that the Ministry of Health has approved Gulu University to serve as one of the National COVID-19 testing centers after training and passing their COVID-19 proficiency test. This is to confirm that Gulu University Laboratory was assessed and their staff went through training at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). The staffs were successfully tested where they passed a proficiency test with 100% score”

GULU CITY-UGANDA: Dr. David Okello- Owiny, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Gulu University has disclosed that Gulu University has received a grant of US$ 4.5 million Multifunctional Research Laboratory funded by United Kingdom Research Council and African Development Bank for testing COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The laboratory was tried on January 25, 2021 where one hundred samples tested and confirmed to be working well.
He says that at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, some leaders were against their application for the laboratory that when they are supported, we would import COVID-19 pandemic to the region.
“I am pleased to inform you that the Ministry of Health has approved Gulu University to serve as one of the National COVID-19 testing centers after training and passing their COVID-19 proficiency test. This is to confirm that Gulu University Laboratory was assessed and their staff went through training at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). The staffs were successfully tested where they passed a proficiency test with 100% score”, he says.
According to Dr, Richard Echodu, the head the Multifunctional Research Laboratory, Gulu University has six machines with the capacity of producing 1000 test results in a day. In mid July 2020 the university applied to the UK Research Council requesting the Council to send some testing kits and they sent 25,000 the kits for testing COVID-19; and in January 2021 the university got accredited to handle the testing of COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.
The laboratory was constructed and equipped with funds from the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Uganda. The agreement was signed on January 11, 2020. The laboratory is yet to be officially commissioned to serve the greater Northern region to enable them handle any infectious disease.
Dr. Felix Kaducu, the Dean of Gulu University’s Faculty of Medicine says feasibility study has been done to use the Multipurpose Research Laboratory to train scientists and medical students in the diagnosis of infectious diseases and in research works, which in the long run, l will be beneficial to the community who will be served by graduates in medicine and science in general.
”This facility will help us train our students on high quality clinical care at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital and at St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor where our students do practical on the community who come for medical care. There is a lot of testing needed in medical care. The equipments can run for hours on the training they are undergoing to produce, not only good and quality graduates, but also quality post graduates.
Dr. Paska Apiyo, the Deputy Director of Gulu Regional Referral Hospital (GRRH) says that the biggest problem of the hospital had been testing; but now, with this laboratory, they will be able to test all types of diseases.
“With the Multifunctional Research Laboratory at the university working, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital we will be able to test and diagnose more accurately. The community will now have confidence in us. This is a very big achievement. Within a few hours, results will be out. We don’t have to take samples to Entebbe anymore”, Dr. Apiyo exclaims.
Dr. Richard Echudo, the Director Multifunctional Research Laboratory says they started operation in October 2020 with quality assurance of ten samples sent from Uganda Virus Research Institute for a second testing and they were precisely accurate. She adds that the Laboratory has tested 30 of their staff to begin the actual screening and so far they have tested 100 samples collected from GRRH and other health facilities in the region with results being both positives and negatives.
He says the Laboratory will charge UGX 180,000 (about US$ 50.00) for corporate testing and individuals who want to know their COVID-19 status but they will offer free services for samples from government health facilities across the region as part of their corporate social responsibilities.
“We regret transferring our COVID-19 patients to Mulago National Referral Hospital, including the late Major Santo Okot Lapolo, former Gulu Residence District Commissioner. WE lost five patients, including Major Lapolo, who died when they could not access the ICU facilities due to overwhelming cases there. At that time we had no ICU facility in our hospital”, Dr. Paska Apiyo laments.
Dr. Apiyo says they had 670 cases of COVID-19 patients from the eight districts in Acholi sub-region but 6 patients succumbed to the pandemic. Currently, there are 1318 home care COVID-19 cases of the pandemic while 658 patients were discharged, representing 79 percent. There is a single active case admitted at the facility in the hospital.

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