On this visit Bristol University asked me to accompany 20 of their 4th year medical students and four of their tutors on their visit to Kitovu and Villa Maria hospitals. This is the fifth year in which Bristol has sent students for a three-week study period in Uganda. The hospitals receive financial support in return for hosting the students who receive a fascinating insight into a completely different medical and social environment.
Most of them gave a blood donation, many for the first time.
In addition to financial support, Bristol sent a large amount of useful medical equipment
While at Kitovu I was able to review our projects there. The staff loan scheme goes from strength to strength and is a great help for staff recruitment and retention, which are always major problems. We have given loans which this scheme uses as working capital and they have always been promptly repaid.
Another loan, now repaid, was used to complete the x-ray department which will shortly be fully functional, including a CT scanner which is a rarity in a mission hospital.
They are in the process of building a new ward with single rooms. Our loan has enabled completion of the ground floor and patients will be using it in the very near future. A second floor will be built in due course as funds become available.
Our next big project is the refurbishment of the maternity ward and operating theatre at Freda Carr Hospital, Ngora, in north eastern Uganda which is a poor area.
Planning for this is progressing well in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Kampala Central and we expect to submit an application for a Rotary Global Grant this autumn. The vocational training team which visited from Rotary District 1090 this spring was enthusiastically received. We are optimistic that we can initiate a major transformation in this rundown hospital along the lines of the work that succeeded so well at Kamuli in the past. The buildings to be refurbished are shown below:
Maternity ward Operating theatre:
This project will greatly improve the lives of mothers, babies and surgical patients in this area.
This year has seen strong support for the proposed Rotary Global Grant to refurbish the maternity facilities at Freda Carr Hospital, Ngora in eastern Uganda. The grant will also include regular visits from the Vocational Training Team which visited this hospital in April for the first time.
We are profoundly grateful for the support we have received from everyone.
Planning for the project in partnership with the Rotary Club of Kampala Central is now in the final stages and submission to The Rotary Foundation for approval is anticipated this autumn.
In April 2017 Rotary District 1090 sent a team of a doctor and two midwives to Freda Carr Hospital, Ngora, to train hospital staff and students at the School of Nursing and Midwifery in lifesaving skills for mothers and babies. This is the first 1090 VTT visit to Ngora which is set to receive ongoing visits as part of a Rotary global grant funded project to improve facilities and services at the hospital.
Those of you who have been reading these reports since 2009 will have noticed that they have changed significantly over time. Early reports were full of the emotional impact of seeing human suffering at first hand and the culture shock of coping with the very limited resources available to help.
Inevitably one becomes accustomed to seeing these things and latterly reports have concentrated on our efforts to make longterm improvements. Although improving the efficiency of hospitals is critical to saving the lives of mothers and babies, it doesn’t make such good reading as details of practical work on the hospital wards.
On this, my 15th visit, I have been deeply disturbed once more.
Uganda is a green and pleasant land thanks to two rainy seasons each year following the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Last year the September rains failed with severe consequences for rural subsistence farmers, the community that most of our patients come from and the bulk of the Ugandan population. There are food shortages, increased prices and many are down to one meal a day in the rural areas. In field after field the maize crop has died as shown in the pictures:
Hopefully the rains will come again this spring and set them on the road to recovery but if they don’t, it will be very serious. It is easy to overlook how vulnerable these poor countries south of the Sahara are to changes in climate and how we cannot take well established historical weather patterns for granted.
On the project front we are seeking to repeat the successful programme we implemented at Kamuli in a much poorer setting in Eastern Uganda. We hope to refurbish the maternity ward at Freda Carr Ngora Hospital (pictured above) and send a Vocational Training Team to boost education at the nurse training school, all with the help of a global grant from Rotary. We are receiving strong support from the Rotary Club of Kampala Central and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau.
One of the great joys of coming to Uganda is the opportunity to meet the most incredible people. I have previously mentioned the Kamuli anaesthetic officer who works literally 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and Dr Maura Lynch of Kitovu, a nun and surgeon who celebrates 50 years in Africa this year. Both of these are still working in their 70’s. On this trip I met an 80 yr old ophthalmologist who has been 52 yrs in Africa, still works full time and spends two weeks each month travelling all over Uganda taking his surgical skills to remote communities. His name is Keith Waddell of Ruharo hospital and he is photographed with his team on an outreach journey. Between them, these three remarkable people have 151 years of service. I feel I live an incredibly lazy and self indulgent existence!
Every visit to Uganda holds surprises, some pleasant, others less so.
The road network has improved dramatically over the past eight years but this is a mixed blessing. On the upside, travel is quicker and more comfortable with less dust and fewer bumps. On the downside, local drivers have a lot to learn about the hazards of high speed travel. When we found ourselves in a major traffic jam following an accident, we took to the side roads (!) to try and get by but unfortunately met others doing the same from the opposite direction! Fortunately my travels were otherwise uneventful apart from paying more for petrol post Brexit.
My first job was to welcome 20 Bristol University medical students and see them on their way to Kitovu and Villa Maria. These hospitals have hosted Bristol students for four years now, providing 50 in total with exceptional learning and unforgettable medial experiences. Next year we hope to extend this programme to Kamuli as well.
One of the main objectives of this visit was to complete the process of setting up the Medicaudit Foundation in Uganda as a fully fledged non-profit organisation. It will partner with Medicaudit Ltd in Uganda and Rotary Doctor Bank in UK and oversee the work of supporting rural hospitals which has been developing so successfully over the past four years. We now support 24 hospitals, 7 clinics and other sites including pharmacies and even a hospital farm! Your generosity has secured the future of this work which goes from strength to strength.
The inaugural meeting was held by the founding members, somewhat informally, over dinner in a cafe in Kampala:
A critical element of the Foundation’s work is computer system support and as our network spreads further afield, we have developed ways of providing remote support over the internet to cut down on the need for staff to waste a lot of time travelling. It never ceases to amaze me how we are able to productively and cost effectively use up to the minute technical solutions in a low tech society. But it really does work and our hospitals are constantly improving the care they are able to give patients.
Medicaudit is sponsoring one of its employees, Nicholus Seguya, to undertake further training by doing an MSc in Public Health Informatics at Makerere University, Kampala.
An exciting new project is helping the Rotary Club of Thanet, UK, with their project to improve water supply and sanitation at Soroti Regional Referral Hospital. I visited this incredibly hardworking hospital again and look forward to developments in the coming year
While in the east I visited the Medicaudit project at Ngora. This hospital was a leader in many spheres a long time ago but after a period of decline it is heartwarming to see it recovering. There is huge scope for useful projects here and Medicaudit is closely involved.
Jim McWhirter, July 2016
Bristol University medical school has sent 4th year medical students for SSC study in Uganda each year since 2013. Twenty students and four tutors arrived for a three week stay at Kitovu and Villa Maria hospitals