“I thought I was going to die”: Experiences of COVID-19 patients managed at home in Uganda

Article Authors: Susan Nakireka, David Mukunya, Crescent Tumuhaise, Ronald Olum, Edith Namulema, Agnes Napyo, Quraish Serwanja, Prossie Merab Ingabire, Asad Muyinda, Felix Bongomin, Milton Musaba, Vivian Mutaki, Ritah Nantale, Phillip Akunguru, Rozen Ainembabazi, Derrick Nomujuni, William Olwit, Aisha Nakawunde, Specioza Nyiramugisha, Pamela Mwa Aol, Joseph Rujumba, Ian Munabi, Sarah Kiguli


Background: In Uganda, approximately 170,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,630 deaths have been reported as of January 2023. At the start of the second COVID-19 wave, the Ugandan health system was overwhelmed with a sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 patients who needed care, and the Ministry of Health resorted to home-based isolation and care for patients with mild to moderate disease. Before its rollout, the COVID-19 home-based care strategy had neither been piloted nor tested in Uganda.

Objective: To explore the experiences of COVID-19 patients managed at home in Uganda.

Methods: This was a qualitative study that was conducted to explore the lived experiences of COVID-19 patients managed at home. The study was carried out among patients who presented to three hospitals that were designated for treating COVID-19 patients in Uganda. COVID-19 patients diagnosed at these hospitals and managed at home were followed up and contacted for in-depth telephone interviews. The data were analysed using thematic content analysis with the aid of NVIVO 12.0.0 (QRS International, Cambridge, MA).

Results: Participants experienced feelings of fear and anxiety: fear of death, fear of losing jobs, fear of infecting loved ones and fear of adverse events such as loss of libido. Participants also reported feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and depression on top of the debilitating and sometimes worsening symptoms. In addition to conventional medicines, participants took various kinds of home remedies and herbal concoctions to alleviate their symptoms. Furthermore, COVID-19 care resulted in a high economic burden, which persisted after the COVID-19 illness. Stigma was a major theme reported by participants. Participants recommended that COVID-19 care should include counselling before testing and during and after the illness to combat the fear and stigma associated with the diagnosis. Another recommendation was that health workers should carry out home visits to patients undergoing home-based care and that COVID-19 treatment should be free of charge.

Conclusion: COVID-19 home-based care was associated with fear, anxiety, loneliness, depression, economic loss and stigma. Policymakers should consider various home-based follow-up strategies and strengthen counselling of COVID-19 patients at all stages of care.

Bibliographical metadata

DOI https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0295113
Links https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38085728/
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