June 2014 – Jim McWhirter

 

In this report I want let you know what I am doing and how Rotary Doctor Bank is spending your donations in Uganda.

The objective  – to save lives, especially those of mothers, their babies and children  – remains the same. But over the five years I have been coming here, the method has changed significantly.

Being a doctor, my first inclination was to work on the maternity ward which I did at Kamuli for six months spread over my first three years. This undoubtedly saved some lives and was personally rewarding. However, between visits nothing changed and staying in Uganda long term was not an option for me. So I was wondering where to go next….

IMG_0389At this point, by happy coincidence, I met a Ugandan doctor who was addressing many of the problems that troubled me in my work here. Lack of essential supplies was a constant frustration, but trying to discover how much of this was lack of resources and how much was inefficiency, was beyond me. The lack of resources was unquestionably very real but so was the inefficiency. And if you have few resources it is even more important that you avoid waste and manage them efficiently.

Fortunately my new found Ugandan doctor friend, Rogers, had the answer. He previously had been in charge of a rural mission hospital and had written his own computer programme to help him in his work.

Further development of the programme and trials in a few hospitals had led to a working management tool which increased hospital income and efficiency without increasing the fees charged to the poor rural populations these hospitals serve.

Good news spreads fast and I met Rogers just at the time when demand for his system (Medicaudit) was rising but hospitals could ill afford the upfront computer costs to get it started.

And this is where you come in! Funds donated through Rotary Doctor Bank paid the modest £1,500 start up costs for each hospital, after which they required no more funding as they saw their incomes increase.

Only one problem remained. Until this year Medicaudit was a one man band with Rogers providing installation, training and support to a dozen far flung rural hospitals from his base in Kampala. Medicaudit had to expand or grind to a halt.

A five year plan to develop Medicaudit leading to a self sustaining non-profit organisation was drawn up. A generous private donor offered full matching for funds raised by Rotary Doctor Bank for this work. So now they have a staff of four and rapid expansion well ahead of the original plan of six new hospitals a year starting in 2015.

Laying cable for the computer network
Laying cable for the computer network

On this trip we visited six hospitals in the first week to review progress and problems. In the second week I went with Rogers and new team member, Nicholus, to observe (and occasionally help) as they installed the system and trained the staff at Kumi hospital in Northern Uganda.

 
IMG_2817The challenge of establishing working computer stations at reception, cashier, patient billing and accounts departments over a local network with many staff using computers for the very first time, should not be underestimated – and all in three and a half days followed by a seven hour drive back to Kampala.

You would naturally conclude that this could not possibly achieve anything useful but you would be wrong. Experience has proved the method in 15 hospitals so far and there is every reason to believe that the 16th will not be an exception. A follow up visit in a month or so will consolidate progress, continue training and encourage gradual extension of the system. Hospital motivation develops rapidly as they see cash income rise as the computer tracks all transactions and identifies problems to be addressed.

So, by helping to make hospitals more efficient and self sustaining, mothers and their children, as well as other patients, will benefit and more lives will be saved.

As always, thanks to one and all for your support as this project moves forward to a very exciting future!

Jim McWhirter

June 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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