IDI joins Rakai COVID-19 task force

Dr Mohammed Lamorde, the head of the Global Health Security Programme at the Infectious Diseases Institute accompanied Dr Allan Muruta the Commissioner Integrated Epidemiology, Surveillance and Public Health Emergencies, Ministry of Health (MOH) on a two-day support supervision visit to Rakai district last week. IDI recently joined Rakai Health Services Program (RHSP), another Centre of Disease Control and Prevention supported implementing partner to work in the region on COVID-19 surveillance. IDI has since mentored 651 VHTs in COVID19 surveillance for Rakai and Kyotera districts.

Fourteen Task Force members in Kyotera district were also trained and an alert management system established.

Christine Zawedde, the Kyotera cluster coordinator from RHSP, said three out of four districts in her cluster have reported local transmission.

The district leadership was advised that all the measures by partners are to keep the pandemic at bay until a vaccine has been discovered and rolled out. Rakai borders with Tanzania are porous and community transmission remains an imminent threat to the work done so far by the COVID19 task force.

The district task force was lauded for the promptness in diagnosis, which was said to be the reason Uganda has continued to present good reports in comparison to her neighbours. The team was encouraged to continue strengthening the COVID19 surveillance and create a buffer of the region.

Dr Lamorde encouraged the task force to engage the Call for Life Interactive Voice Response (IVR) programme run by the Academy for Health Innovation within IDI for patients who have been released from quarantine.

“The system helps with triage as only the clients who are in the most danger or present a risk to the community will be followed up by health workers. This will help solve the issue of transportation to monitor clients after release,” he said.

As part of the national response in the fight against COVID19 in Uganda, the Academy for Health Innovation is working tirelessly through a partnership between IDI and MOH. Through this agreement, a team of software engineers and medical professionals have developed a pilot project that will facilitate the management of the large numbers of COVID19 patients. This pilot project is an adaptation of the Call for Life (C4Life) project that has successfully facilitated the management of Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS patients. It uses basic mobile phones (Katorch) through voice automated call system known as IVR; a computer-assisted patient management system. It is accessible, easy to use and has the potential to be widely applicable. lt is an intelligent technological health innovation that supports front line workers to track all COVID-19 patients; these include recovered patients, those that have left quarantine and the contacts of the patients.

MOH is already tracking over 240 people who have completed their mandatory quarantine using this system. These individuals have begun receiving these voice automated calls to monitor their conditions such that they can self-evaluate and report any symptoms.

By Tracy Ahumuza