The surgery took place in Soroti, six days after the baby was referred to Mulago National Referal hospital in Kampala for tertiary care only to be referred back without help. By that time, the dead baby was decomposing and the team headed by Dr Joseph Epodoi, a senior consultant surgeon conducted a surgery that lasted 15 hours and saved the baby who shared parts with a dead sister.
The twin girls were delivered on March 20 at Amuria district hospital to Joyce Alinga, a 21-year-old who conceived during the long COVID-19 lockdown. But moments after the cesarean section birth, one of the twins was found dead while the other was alive, prompting medics in Amuria hospital to refer the babies to Soroti hospital for possible detachment. But the team in Soroti also referred the family to Mulago hospital.
However, the family failed to secure an appointment with medics at Mulago to carry out the operation, forcing the family to return to Soroti hospital. The living conjoined twin was been able to stay alive for six days while stuck to her dead sister before the surgery.
Medical research shows that when the heart of one of the twins stops, they are likely to lose blood into the living twin and would need emergency care to save the living twin.
Paulo Oluo, the father of the conjoined twins previously said that much as they conducted a pregnancy scan, there was no indication that there were two children in the womb.
“We were referred to Soroti and to Mulago but nobody helped us while in Mulago. I decided to return to Soroti because the condition of the living child was also deteriorating each day,” he said.
In June 2020, medics in Soroti successfully delivered a mother whose baby was implanted on the liver. In parliament, Kasilo county MP Elijah Okupa, who yesterday moved the motion to pay tribute to the team said the surviving twin can now smile and pass urine, 12-days after surgery. However, he added that the hospital only operates at 40 per cent of its capacity and asked that it’s rehabilitated and equipped.
The MPs also asked that government institutes a mechanism to leverage the skills of the health workers to further enhance the health sector with a bigger vision of medical tourism in the region. Oseku Richard Oriebo, the Kibale County MP who seconded the motion, recommended that the medics are awarded medals at the upcoming heroes day in June.
He, however, noted that to further strengthen the hospital and to enable it to conduct such and other complicated surgeries, there’s a need to expand the theatre since the hospital is slowly setting itself apart in care having recently successfully helped a woman deliver a baby that had been implanted on the liver.
The call by politicians came in shortly after medical workers under the Uganda Medical Association pointed out that regional referral hospitals are grossly understaffed and don’t have basic equipment they would need to cut down on referrals to the national hospitals.
They for instance said that Soroti hospital has no high dependency unit where people in the critical state are monitored from and basic diagnostic equipment like a CT scan that would make it easier for medics to quickly detect infection or when conducting surgeries.
This was acknowledged by the state minister for Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru, noting that most health facilities are only giving prescription without treatment.
“If these co-joined twins had been from a family of a high ranking official or from a rich family, they would have been given priority at Mulago hospital. They were instead sent away and left to die…In many parts of the country, the health sector is just for giving prescription. It is like you have a death sentence in some of these health facilities around the country. We must face the challenge head-on so that the rich and poor get the same services,” said Ecweru.
Meanwhile, several people tuned to local radio stations in Soroti to follow parliamentary proceedings as MPs paid tribute to the team. By 2:00 pm, several residents had secured convenient places to enable them to listen and watch the parliamentary proceedings. At Soroti hospital, the staff caught up with plenary in rooms that have televisions in the hospital.
The speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said that the names of the medics will be submitted to the national medal awards committee for consideration.