Authorities at St Mary’s Hospital, Lacor in Gulu City are in high spirits after the installation of two anaesthesia and Ultrasound machines that are meant to revamp the surgical procedures at the facility.
Speaking in an interview with Daily Monitor, Dr Cyprian Opira, the hospital director, revealed that the installation of the equipment is a big boost to their operations since the hospital had suspended certain procedures due to frequent breakdown of the old equipment.
“The hospital had suspended some types of operations because the old machines broke down but now the surgeons and anesthesiologists can work continuously without postponing surgeries,” Dr Opira said at the weekend.
Dr Opira said they will be able to reduce the waiting hours for patients since they will be able to offer services much faster and accurately to the patients.
“We have been having long queues and other patients, including pregnant mothers would wait for more than a day before they are served. The machines, especially the ultrasound scan will help us speed up the work on pregnant women and those in critical conditions,” the hospital boss said.
While the ultrasound machine effectively helps to see and monitor the pregnancies of mothers, the Mindray anaesthesia machines, effectively helps in general surgeries since it is automated and adjustable to fit every age group including children.
Prior to the handover last week, the manufacturers of the machines were at the hospital to conduct an orientation of the medical staff who are to operate it. This newspaper established that the machines were donated to the hospital by the Japanese government as part of its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) in Uganda.
Early last week, the Japanese Embassy represented by Mr Kitamura Yoshinori, the head of economic cooperation, handed over the medical equipment to the hospital authorities.
“The procurement of this medical equipment at this hospital was worth $99, 500 (approximately Shs371.8 million). We needed to offer this support considering the several challenges that the hospital is going through now,” Mr Yoshinori said.
Lacor hospital, founded by the Comboni Missionaries, receives and provides medical services to more than 210,000 patients including those that are critically ill.
“The hospital has been facing challenges of a severe shortage of medical equipment, especially anaesthetic machines and ultrasound scans. The available well-used machines have often broken down and delayed operations,” he added. According to the Italian-based Corti Foundation (the hospital’s major funder), there is currently an overwhelming number of patients who require treatment for a range of complex diseases.
This comes at the weight of the facility that strives to treat the poor at the lowest cost possible.
“This has always been a big burden to the hospital as it’s running cost keeps hiking,” Dr Opira said.
The data from the hospital indicates that 1,967 patients contributed 67 per cent of hospital bills while donor and government contribution stood at 25 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively.
But when the poverty levels escalated in the region, the contribution trend has switched. Donors now contribute 63 per cent while patients and government pay 29 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively according to the Foundation’s 2018 report.
The trend states clearly how the facility is struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic when donor support drastically reduced in last eight months, according to Dr Opira.
The hospital is still short of more than Shs3b to purchase and install a Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan machine, a year later since the fundraising drive for the project was launched.
However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has caused a delay in the process of fundraising for the procurement of a 128 slices CT machine.
The scan is used to detect tumours within the abdomen, identify heart diseases or abnormalities and locate injuries, tumours, blood clots, clots leading to stroke, hemorrhage, excess fluid and other conditions such as pneumonia.
The absence of the machine is straining patients in Acholi and the neighbouring areas of Karamoja, Lango, Teso and West Nile Sub-regions, who throng the facility for such services.
Despite the challenges, the hospital was on November 6 recognised by government (Ministry of Health) as the best faith-based health facility in Uganda after it won the Mission and Faith-Based Health Facility Award at the Heroes in Health Awards in Kampala.
The first and the second runners up in the category were; Catholic-based hospitals of St Kizito Hospital, Matany in Moroto District and Kiwoko Hospital in central Uganda respectively.
Computerised Tomography (CT). Currently, a patient spends up to Shs1.5m to hire the services of an ambulance from Gulu to Kampala to access a CT scan. There are 17 CT scans in the country according to the 2017/2018 Uganda Health Sector Performance Report. Thirteen of them are distributed within Kampala, two in south western Uganda and two in Mbale City at Cure hospital and Mt Elgon Hospital.