Family Assessment at St Mary's During Lockdown
The first case of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 was reported in Uganda in late March. Around this same time, the Ugandan government placed a ban on the use of public transportation, in addition to implementing other types of restrictions, to prevent the spread of the virus. These have markedly reduced access to care for children with cancer.
While the use of government ambulances was permitted and private vehicles could be hired for transportation, the costs were high ($20 to $50). Boda-bodas - or motorcycles - could also be hired for travel within the wider Gulu district, and although the costs were less ($15 to $30), they were still too high. This is because most families live on less than three dollars a day in the best of times and parents simply could not afford to bring their children to St Mary’s at these prices.
With this in mind, we developed an emergency response plan that was put into place in April to cover the transportation costs for parents of children with cancer. Children who had been discharged to home in-between treatment cycles were brought back to St Mary’s and when they completed their next course of treatment, they were taken home. We also brought children who had completed their planned treatment back to the hospital for routine follow-up appointments. Children who had been waiting for several weeks at the hospital to be discharged after all planned treatment was completed were taken home. Financial support mechanisms for children living outside of the Gulu District were also implemented. Since this plan was put into place in April, we have been able to support 45 children with transportation to and from the hospital.
St Mary’s typically sees 10 to 15 newly diagnosed children with cancer each month. But, from late March through the end of May, only three such patients were admitted to the hospital. We hope to bring more children with suspected cancer to our hospital for care. Even with our best efforts to improve transportation support mechanisms, we know that many other children under our care have abandoned treatment altogether at this time.
Your donations have made it possible for us to assist families with transportation costs. With your continued support, particularly during this period, you can help us to ensure that as many children with cancer as possible receive the treatment they need. Thank you very much for your donations!