Initially, COVID-19 containment severely restricted transportation in Uganda, complicating the travel of many sick people or aggravating illness from those who were unable to go to the hospital. In addition, for fear of being infected with coronavirus in the hospital, patients have limited their visits. 

However, following the announcement that Gulu Hospital was designated as a COVID-19 treatment centre, Lacor was able to provide care for most other health problems. Later in the year, the government informed the public that Lacor would receive the heaviest COVID-19 cases as it is the only one with the equipment necessary for the production and distribution of oxygen in the north of the country. 

Dr. Emmanuel Ochola, an epidemiologist, biostatistician and Head of HIV Services, Research and Documentation, reminds us that Lacor had already treated Ebola in 2000. The Ebola outbreak had struck the Hospital and caused the death of Dr. Matthew Lukwiya and some brave colleagues. Since then, Lacor has continued to maintain protocols to respond to epidemiological emergencies that unfortunately occur with some regularity in equatorial African countries. 

This issue presents two recent cases at the Hospital, as well as some data from Lacor’s last fiscal year. 

We wish you a safe and lovely spring, 

Teasdale-Corti Team

The most common cancer in children in the region is Burkitt’s lymphoma, which is particularly aggressive. Each year, Lacor treats an average of 200 children with cancer in pediatrics, almost half of whom have this lymphoma. Thanks to the free treatment offered in Lacor, about 70% of children affected by this disease are in partial, if not complete, remission. This is a success, considering that in sub-Saharan Africa, only 40-60% of children with the disease survive, compared to 75-90% of those treated in the developed countries. 

Burkitt’s lymphoma can be treated, but only if patients arrive early in a hospital which can immediately provide diagnosis and treatment, such as Lacor. 

Anyango arrived at Lacor with her older brother. Orphans, they live with their uncle who has not been able to accompany them so as not to leave the fields providing for their livelihood. Anyango had a swollen jaw for a year, but no one worried. It was only when the child’s abdomen and legs became swollen, and she had difficulty breathing that the uncle sent the two children to Lacor for help. 

When Anyango arrived in Lacor, her illness was very advanced. Her heart and lungs were bathed in fluid, and a biopsy confirmed Burkitt’s lymphoma. Admitted to pediatrics, Anyango undertook chemotherapy and quickly got better. She breathed more easily, and her face deflated. Fortunately, a family home in Lacor houses children in chemotherapy and also provides for their education. Anyango completed her therapy in this residence, while her brother returned to the village to resume school and help in the fields. To date, the girl has not shown any signs of lymphoma. 

Anyango’s full treatment program consists of six chemotherapy sessions that cost about $100 each; in total, for chemo alone, Lacor needs approximately $600 for each child with Burkitt’s lymphoma. This amount is exorbitant in a country like Uganda, where many people still live below the poverty line. 

Your donations to the Women and Children chapter of the Become Part of the Story campaign are highly valued by patients because they include pediatric care costs, such as those Anyango received. 

“Alone we go faster, but together we go further!” This African proverb embodies the mission of Lacor Hospital, Teasdale-Corti Foundation and its many donors. 

Before the advent of COVID-19, the eight beds in the Lacor Intensive Care Unit serviced all northern Uganda. On average, four patients per week were hospitalized for a variety of reasons, such as very severe infection, snake bite, obstetric complication, or airway obstruction. With the spread of the virus, a four-bed COVID-19 intensive care unit with dedicated staff was set up. 

Nancy Fortunate Akello, a COVID-19 intensive care nurse at Lacor, remembers Mego Anek, an elderly patient from Atyang village, Omoro district. Diabetic, she had an oxygen saturation of 70% and had been found positive for COVID-19. 

Nancy had little hope of Mego recovering given her condition and advanced age. “To our astonishment, in a short time, Mego began to show signs of improvement,” says Nancy. “She was sick, but cheerful and full of energy. She always smiled and was very talkative.” In the end Mego recovered well. 

One of the treatments that saved Mego was oxygen. The rapid supply of oxygen to the lungs of patients makes the difference between life and certain death caused by the coronavirus. A significant investment at Lacor allowed the administration of oxygen at the patient’s bedside. The constant supply of oxygen is the most important contribution to surviving severe pneumonia related to COVID-19. 

Jacopo Barbieri, energy engineer and Technical Director of Lacor, notes that the hospital is one of the few in this region of Africa to produce oxygen and administer it at the patient’s bedside. This is possible through a distribution system in pediatrics, general medicine, intensive care, surgery, first aid, COVID-19 care and isolation services, as well as in the operating theatre. 

Your support in the General Care chapter of the Become Part of the Story campaign, is helping patients like Mego Anek to receive quality specialized care. Each donation in this chapter helps Lacor subsidize treatment for youth, adults and the elderly with malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cirrhosis, and other diseases. 

For sixty years, Lacor Hospital has earned the trust of people through the quality of its care and the dedication of its staff. Once again, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Lacor has proven to be a hospital of choice for women and children. Eight out of ten people seeking assistance and treatment are women or children under the age of six. 

In total, Lacor Hospital treated 233,148 patients, 34,560 of whom were hospitalized. This is an overall decrease of 14% from the previous year, which is mainly due to a decrease in attendance related to COVID-19. However, the total number of patients admitted was high compared to nearby facilities, particularly children and mothers, as well as for emergency care and specialized services visits, demonstrating the complementarity of Lacor in the health system. 

Lacor, excluding its schools, costs $8.5 million CAD annually. In recent years, there has been an increase in costs due a quickly rising inflation rate as well as an increase in the exchange rate. Most of Lacor’s costs are covered by donations from abroad. The contribution of patients is nominal. Unfortunately, the Ugandan government is not currently able to put in place a tax system like Canada’s to cover the health care costs of the population. Lacor and its patients therefore thank all donors abroad for their support. Without you, Lacor would not be able to excel as it does and care for so many people year after year. 

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