“I am very happy about the new operating theatre here in Bwindi. I would not have been able to deliver my baby without it.I would probably have died,” says an overjoyed Florence Akampurira as she holds her baby in her arms.
Still recovering from a surgical operation, Akampurira, 19, was the first person to undertake a Caesarean operation last week at the newly built operating theatre at Bwindi Community Hospital, on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Kanungu District.
The church-founded medical centre was recently elevated to a hospital status by the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council after it had acquired an operating theatre.
Akampurira is one of the many people who will benefit from having a hospital near them. Before that, people braved longer distances to the nearest hospital in Rukungiri town for surgical operations.
Although Mukongoro village, where the now mother of one stays is 3km from the hospital, it is still good news since before that they had to brave a much longer distance.
Hardly a week after its elevation to hospital status, the sickbay’s Caesarean section has already started performing surgical operations.
It hopes to expand its operations next year, including inviting visiting specialist surgeons. The operating facilities, the first in this remote area, would certainly go a long way in saving lives.
“We never thought we would see the day when you could get operations here in Bwindi. But this is an area of high need, and we are proud to be offering this service to the local community,” said the hospital’s Head of Surgery, Dr. Edwin Birungi.
Birungi is one of the over 80 medical staff the hospital employs.
Getting an operating theatre five years after the founding of the hospital in the rural Buhoma village, makes Bwindi Community Hospital one of the luckiest and fastest growing hospitals in the area.
The hospital is expected to meet the health needs of an estimated 35,000 people who include the Batwa pygmies. This minority group was thrown out of their indigenous habitat in the early 1990s when the area was turned into a national park and has since been living in abject poverty.
It may not solve their impoverished status but it will certainly help them with healthcare services.
Dr. Doreen Agasha, the hospitals’ head of Sexual and Reproductive Health, welcomes the medical centre’s capacity to handle Caesarean section.
“Before the Operating Theatre, our obstructed labour patients were referred to the nearest hospital, normally Kambuga which takes between one and two hours to reach, or Nyakibale Hospital which takes three hours by car because of the poor roads. Sometimes they didn’t make it there in time and both the mother and the baby died. Now we can do Caesarean sections right here in Bwindi. This will save lives, for sure.”
More than 50 women have been delivering their babies in Bwindi Community Hospital every month. With the new operating theatre, the number is expected to increase.
Besides the operating theatre, the Hospital also has the Joint Clinical Research Centre branch offering HIV/AIDS testing and treatment facilities, and a Mother’s Hostel that temporarily houses pregnant women who live far away before delivery.
It also recently acquired a new CD4 machine and as of December 1, World AIDS Day, 11,500 people had been tested for HIV since 2006.
Bwindi Community Hospital is a Church of Uganda founded hospital funded by individual donors through The Kellermann Foundation in the US and the Friends of Bwindi Community Hospital Charity in the UK.