Kamuli Mission Hospital is situated on the outskirts of the town of Kamuli in the Eastern Region of Uganda, half way between the capital Kampala and Mbale. The hospital was founded in 1914 by Mother Kevin, an Irish nun from the Nursing Order of The Little Sisters of St Francis. In those days, the hospital consisted of grass huts but they cared for all patients regardless of race or religion. The present buildings date from the 1960’s. Up until that time there was no doctor at the hospital, the first one started in 1962.
Patients have to make a contribution to the costs of their care. As many of them are subsistence farmers living in very limited circumstances, this can be very difficult for them. The hospital keeps charges to the minimum level so that most patients are not excluded from getting health care. There is a constant tension between raising enough money to keep the hospital running and making health care available to everyone. The Government makes a contribution but this can be variable and is always under pressure.
Kamuli Mission Hospital has a training school for nurses and midwives. Retention of trained staff, both medical and nursing, is a constant problem. The hospital cannot afford to pay competitive wages and the isolated rural situation is not attractive to young people.
Over the last five years, a new operating theatre, pharmacy, laboratory, X-ray and ultrasound rooms and nursing school have been built mainly as a result of support by Rotarians and Rotary Clubs in Britain and Ireland. In 2015, the Vice President of Uganda opened the refurbished Maternity Unit and the new Obstetric Fistula Unit. This refurbishment was funded by a Global Grant from the Rotary Foundation, led by Dr Jim McWhirter and members of the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge, with support from the Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund, the Rotary Doctor Bank and other anonymous donors.
Sebastian Waibi has worked at Kamuli Hospital for 50 years. For most of that time he has administered general anaesthetics at the hospital. Now in his 70’s he is still the only person at the hospital who can administer anaesthetics, he is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To mark Sebastian’s devotion to the hospital, Rotary Clubs in UK presented him with a Paul Harris Fellowship in January 2016.
The hospital serves a large, rural area with a population of over 750,000, most of whom are subsistence farmers. It has 160 beds with wards for surgery, medicine, maternity and paediatrics. The outpatient department operates a 24 hour casualty service and there are departments for antenatal care and the treatment of TB and HIV. The hospital sees 50,000 outpatients and admits 10,000 inpatients each year.
In most cases, the people in the area still live in mud huts, with no electricity, running water or sanitation. They cook on open fires and as there are always toddlers and small children around, burns injuries are very common. Life expectancy in this part of Africa is about 50 years and there is a high infant mortality rate. AIDS started in Uganda in the 1980’s and is still a problem there. There are many AIDS orphans being looked after by extended family members and orphanages.
Dr Jim McWhirter, who has made a huge difference to Kamuli Hospital.