An Operating Room Back in Use After 11 Years
Bulamu’s team during a surgery at the newly reopened operating room in Isingiro District.
In September, Bulamu’s Clinical Support Teams (CSTs) of 20 licensed Ugandan doctors, nurses, and midwives began treating patients at 4 health centers in Isingiro District, located on the Tanzanian border in southwest Uganda. When the teams arrived, along with our partners from the Rotary Club of Kampala-Naguru, we found that one of the two operating rooms in this district of 420,000 people had not functioned for 11 years, lacking basic equipment including a sterilizer, patient stretcher, surgical instruments, and a generator to cover regular power outages.
Thanks to a generous $5,000 gift from an individual Rotary Club member, we purchased the necessary equipment and returned the operating room to working condition one week later. In its first 2 weeks back online, 13 patients received C-sections in the operating room. Previously, pregnant women with obstructed labor had to drive over an hour to the nearest government hospital, where they faced greater costs and delays. As one town council member told us, “I have had three women deliver babies in my car on the way to Mbarara hospital because they could not afford the ambulance fee.”
Hospital equipment is readily available in Uganda, but government budgets are often inadequate to pay for it. Because Bulamu is a direct provider of medical services in Uganda and we see needs on the ground that larger international organizations miss, our programs improve patient care long-term using cost effective, common sense solutions.
Pictured with her healthy baby girl, Grace was the first maternity patient treated in the Rugaga Health Center IV’s newly rehabilitated operating room. Years before, she had been told she would never have a child and that if she did, it would be a complicated delivery. Though Grace did need a C-section, now that her local Health Center IV is functioning for surgeries, her care was a routine procedure once again. During its first month back in service, the operating room was used to perform 28 C-sections for women who would have otherwise had multi-hour delays and greater expense to try to go to Mbarara’s referral hospital – all for only about $5000 in one time cost. By providing quality care at the appropriate referral health center, Bulamu is helping to make the entire referral system function better, reducing patient delays and providing care closer to patients at a lower cost per person. Fortunately when it comes to health systems, it often costs less to do things well than to do them poorly.