Help for Hospitals in Uganda: Dr Jim McWhirter's visit July 2013

Kamuli and beyond

What an exciting visit - a new roof on the maternity ward at Kamuli, a miraculous recovery from a flood at Kilembe, hospitals turning round their financial situation with our computers, an Australian volunteer and Bristol University sends eight students to learn.

At last the projects you have supported for so long are bearing real fruit. The first visit was to Kamuli to see the new roof on the Maternity Ward. The roof is great but, perhaps unsurprisingly, this work has revealed a large number of other problems with the structure.

Happily our other reason for visiting Kamuli was to plan the next phase of improvements. We agreed to modify the programme to put full refurbishment of maternity as the first priority.

Unhelpfully Rotary International changed the grant rules without warning on 1st July meaning that they will no longer do extension work. This would undermine our planning over the past six months so we are appealing for an exemption but if unsuccessful, will improve things with refurbishment using Rotary grant funds and use other sources for extension work.

Many miracles at Kilembe.

On 1st May 2013 a flash flood swept away all the staff houses at Kilembe Mines Hospital, Uganda in a mere 3 hours. It also destroyed the hospital kitchen and filled most of the buildings with silt and stones. The picture shows the remnants of one of the staff houses - most disappeared altogether.

The first miracle was that it occurred during the working day. The surgeon, like the captain of a sinking ship, kept operating until rising water forced him out of the theatre! As the full magnitude of the situation became clear, all 192 patients and all staff and their families were evacuated to safety without a single life lost. Had it occurred at night most of the staff and their families would have been swept away and many patients would also have died.

The next miracle relates to the tree in the picture. A member of staff trapped in his house by the flood climbed onto the roof. As the water completely destroyed his house, he climbed into the tree. The flood destroyed many larger trees but this one, and the man survived.
Three Government Ministers have visited the scene but so far have not given one penny to help.

The greatest miracle of all is the spirit and resilience of the community. Outraged at the loss of their beloved and life-saving hospital, they insisted on coming and clearing the site. Silt and stones were removed, septic tanks dug out and wards cleaned. Within an incredible five weeks the outpatient department had re-opened staffed by those who had lost all their possessions and are living in temporary rented accommodation some distance away. Just one week later the wards opened and when I visited, eight weeks after the flood, the wards were overflowing as usual - with patients!!

It was a deeply moving experience to see and I am proud to say that Rotary Doctor Bank was the first to send humanitarian aid to the homeless staff within days of the tragedy. We are planning further help with the hospital's recovery now.

Over the past two years we have been supporting the work of Medicaudit which helps hospitals make the best use of their very limited resources. The system is now installed in 14 hospitals and 11 are already showing improvement in their finances. Villa Maria has even generated enough surplus income to commence construction of the new staff quarters shown in the picture.

Villa Maria is also hosting eight fourth year medical students from Bristol University who are spending three weeks there in July carrying out projects as part of their course. They were originally scheduled to go to Kilembe but the flood put an end to that. Villa Maria kindly stepped in at the last minute and has made them very welcome. Bristol is making a generous donation and part will go to their hosts but the rest will help Kilembe rebuild. Follow the Bristol students' blog here

Nearby Nkozi hospital is hosting an Australian paediatrician, Dr Theresa Pitts, who is doing a great job working there as a volunteer for three months.

So, very manly thanks are due to all of you for your support and generous donations which have made all of this possible. Please continue to make it all happen!

Jim McWhirter, (R.C Henley Bridge) July 2013

Website: www.hhu.org.uk

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