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"Caring for the Carer". The first Annual TASO Staff medical camp

On 31 January 2018, TASO Mulago carried out the first medical camp for its staff at the TASO College of Health Sciences, TASO Grants Management Unit, TASO Mulago and the TASO Headquarters.

This was an initiative of the Human Resources and Administration directorate, after identifying that staff were presenting an increasing number of requests for reimbursement or advice on a number of treatable illnesses. Theytherefore decided to find out what diseases affect the staff the most. Usually care is given to clients, but under the idea of “caring for the carer”, they found that the carer in this instant was not being taken care of inspite of the available expertise especially in a hospital setting with services within reach. But most importantly, this was done in line with the increase in number of identified cases of Non Communicable disease (NCDs) sufferers the world over. Health workers are just as susceptible to NCDs as the clients they treat.

There is a rise in reported cases of Non Communicable Diseases worldwide. And now that HIV is no longer a death sentence, NCDs seem to be taking over as “silent executioners”. There is an increasing number of people dying from preventable diseases. It is reported that most people do not carry out regular health checks, nor do they seek for free medical services when available.

The camp was held in TASO Mulago where it was more cost effective to bring experts in different fields to come and test and treat staff on site. Since TASO does not offer all the medical services, experts from other specialized units within Mulago hospital were brought in to offer these services. The TASO laboratory also provided extra services that are not available on a daily basis within the TASO clinics. 

What was done?
The services provided included; a general health assessment including measuring weight and height to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI) which is a risk factor for the NCDs. This was done to find out whether staff were over or under weight or just right. Measuring their blood pressure to find out those who are hypertensive or hypotensive, checking their eyes and teeth, mental health screening, screening for H.Pilori (ulcers) and brucellar, cervical cancer screening, blood grouping, random blood sugar and HCG. 

Treatment was done on site for those cases that could be managed, while referral was done for those cases which required a more conducive environment for treatment. For example, teeth extractions were done, but no root canal was done on that day.

The results…
A total of 60 staff members responded to the call. And overall, it was found that staff are healthy. Out of the 18 ladies screening for cervical cancer, only 5 were referred for a Pap smear to the Cancer Institute. The biggest problems were with eyes and teeth.  All 60 (34 male and 26 female) were screened by the ophthalmologist and out of these 19 males and 13 females had eyesight challenges. They were referred for further treatment. Interestingly, most of them were not aware of these challenges. They were simply living quietly with them. For the dental checks, they had 25 males and 35 females. Out of these they had 6 extractions done in addition to polishing, scaling and conservation. Root canals and teeth filling were not done because of the absence of a dental chair, however, they were referred for further management. There was also a session on oral hygiene. 

Staff were found to have more Non communicable diseases than parasitic infections. Of the 60 screened in the laboratory, only two had ulcers and one had typhoid. Emphasis was put on the people who provide food to staff in the two different canteens. The great news is that they were all healthy. 

According to Dr. Lydia Namwanje, the medical services supervisor, the turn up was high compared to the time given for the camp. The feedback was positive, most people had been going around with health challenges quietly maybe due to fear of costs for treatment or fear of seeking for the treatment itself. Several expressed the need for another camp with more time, maybe two days so that more services are accessed. She suggested that maybe next year, in addition to the services this year, they could include Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) services. 

Dr. Namwanje encouraged staff to go for regular medical checkup and not wait for only when they fall sick. She said they are planning for a bigger and better camp next time and hoping to target even more staff especially during a time of fewer meetings and engagements which seem to have taken up most staff this time. Such opportunities for free medical checkup are few and far between and in cases, such as these, where services are brought to the work place, more staff should respond to the need for a checkup.  She concluded by encouraging all those who have not received their Hepatitis B vaccinations to complete them because it is for their own protection. 

A little more about NCDs.
According to the World Health Organisation, NCDs are also referred to as chronic diseases. They tend to be of long duration and are a result of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioral factors. They include cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes, they also include cancers, chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. They also include diabetes. 

While they are usually associated with older age groups, statistics are fast showing that more and more people with the workforce age bracket of 30 to 69 years are just as vulnerable to NCDs. 

On 16th February 2018, the World Health Organisation announced the formation of a new high level commission whose membership includes heads of state, ministers, leaders in health and development and entrepreneurs. This group will be in charge of proposing solutions to accelerate prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes. It was therefore quite timely for TASO to carry out a staff medical camp and aid the process for its health workers to champion the cause of which they are a major part of not only as carers but also as beneficiaries of services to accelerate prevention and control of NCDs in Uganda.

Written by: Matovu Sylvia -Communication, Policy, Advocacy, Public Relations & Documentation Specialist- TASO Headquarters.
Photographs by: Ajamo Brenda - Public Relations Assistant - TASO Mulago
Contributions from: Dr. Lydia Namwanje - Medical Services Supervisor - TASO Mulago.


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