There was a spike in mental breakdown across the country because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the executive director of Butabika Hospital, Dr. Juliet Nakku has said. According to Dr Nakku, their admissions at the 550 capacity bed hospital shot up to over 1,000 people during the lockdown.
Dr Nakku was interfacing with the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament chaired by Budadiri West Member of Parliament Nathan Nandala Mafabi on Tuesday. She had led a team of officials from Butabika Hospital to respond to queries in the auditor general’s report for the financial year 2018/2019.
Dr Nakku noted that they were quite a number of people who were reeling under the weight of the stress resulting from the lockdown. She however said the hospital was aware of the majority of the cases. She said the patients had relapsed since they did not have access to their medication.
In addition to increased admissions, Dr Nakku says the patients could not travel back as a result of the suspension of public transport leading to congestion.
She told MPs that the congestion and strain on resources and staff at the hospital was exacerbated by the shutdown of mental health units in regional hospitals. This according to Dr Nakku put a lot of strain on staff who had to work extra shifts especially to ensure that the congestion didn’t increase the risk of Covid-19 infection.
Nandala Mafabi questioned why mental health units in regional hospitals were shut down to make space for COVID-19 isolation units. Dr Nakku noted that some of the patients in the regions were transferred to Butabika while others were placed in smaller spaces within the regional hospitals.
Nandala Mafabi was curious to understand whether mental health is a priority in the country.
Dr Nakku insisted that mental health is important but the step was just an emergency measure since it was hoped that the COVID-19 situation would be temporary.
She revealed that there were many mental health patients in the countryside with reports of increased suicide by patients who should have been given assistance.