By Doris Mitti Kimuli, Rotary Club of Kampala.
25-year-old Olivia Nakanwagi was brought to Kyampisi Health Centre III in critical condition. She had just delivered her sixth child with the help of a traditional birth attendant in her village. The attendant wasn’t able to stop Olivia’s bleeding and the young mother was rushed to the nearest health centre, 30km from her home. Once at the centre, the only nurse on duty was already overwhelmed with patients. A senior health worker wasn’t available and the attending nurse did not have enough experience to save Olivia.
Similar stories are common in Uganda: stories of accident victims dying from seemingly minor injuries that could have been treated with timely service, children suffering from malnutrition or birth-related complications, and more. These harrowing realities inspired my club, the Rotary Club of Kampala, to embark on a hospital project in the Mukono District.
We started off by doing some research and analyzing the community’s needs. Mukono District, a rapidly growing urban area, is located 27km east of Kampala City. With a population close to 600,000 people, the district has three different levels of health centres but lacks a full hospital. Uganda’s healthcare system works on a referral basis: if a case cannot be handled at a level facility, it is referred to the next level up. If medical attention is needed in a rural village of Mukono District, first a community medicine distributor or a member of a village health team (VHT) is visited. While each village is supposed to have these volunteers, they often don’t exist or don’t have basic drugs to treat common diseases such as malaria. If the VHT can’t treat a patient, the patient is referred to the first of three levels at the local health centre. Each centre should be staffed and equipped according to country regulations.
Oftentimes, these health units do not have essential drugs or regular doctors. The few clinical officers that work at these centres are overworked and underpaid meanwhile operating rooms, if available, do not work because of lack of water, power and other resources. Generally, there is one doctor to 24,000 patients, one nurse to 1,700 patients, one midwife to 9,000 mothers, one dentist to 77,000 patients, one lab technician to 16,000 patients, and one occupational therapist to 433,000 patients.
Needless to say, the death rate from communicable diseases and other treatable ailments is high. 69 children out of every 1000 live births die before the age of five from conditions like diarrhea and malaria; 360 women out of every 100,000 live births die while giving birth; while 5,000 people per 100,000 are infected with HIV/AIDS.
The need for quality health services in Mukono District inspired our club to build a modern hospital and improve the provision of quality health services. On 26 July 2014, the Rotary Club of Kampala broke ground and started constructing a modern hospital on a ten-acre plot of land donated by club member George Kasedde-Mukasa.
The project, the first of its kind in Uganda and in Africa, envisages a fully-fledged modern hospital with an outpatient department, an administration block and private clinic, a special clinics block, operating rooms, female, male and children’s wards. A partnership with Mukono’s Uganda Christian University will provide needed training to health workers.
The first phase, construction of an outpatient clinic, is expected to be completed by June 2015 at an estimated cost of US$ 230,000. This facility will offer a small operating room, treatment rooms for dental, eye and general clinics, offices, and a waiting area. Contributions from Rotarians alone total about US$ 77,000, leaving a funding gap of US$ 153,000.
Our Rotary theme continues to inspire our work to Light Up Rotary. RI President Gary C.K. Huang challenges us to illuminate the world through our Rotary work: “It is better to light a single candle, than to sit and curse the darkness because there are so many problems in the world, so many people who need help, yet many people say, ‘There’s nothing I can do.’ So they sit there doing nothing. Meanwhile everything stays dark”. We have chosen to do something about this darkness; will you join us?