From February 3 to February 16 I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend two weeks in Africa. The first leg of the journey was to Rwanda, a country torn apart in 1994 by horrible genocide with 1 million people slain by machete in 100 days. The second leg was to Liberia, a country founded in the 1820’s by James Madison and freed slaves from America. It endured a civil war from 1990 to 2003.
Since we, as a company, have donated to Partners In Health in Haiti the last few years at Christmas time, I thought I would share with you my log for the day when we visited the PIH hospital in Rwanda:
Today we spent the morning driving to the Partners in Health Hospital in Burera Province in the north part of Rwanda near the border with Uganda. Tom Waldon and I were joined by Jean Baptiste and Luke, his associate with Youth for Christ.
The drive to the hospital was 50% paved, 50% unpaved. The striking observation was the roads were crowded with walkers, bikes and motor bikes, and everyone seemed to be involved in commerce! They were carrying vegetables for sale or going to work their farm. This area is mountainous and blanketed with small terraced farms from the bottom of the valleys to the tops of the mountains with people living everywhere in between. Most have no electricity or running water but the life style keeps them active and generally healthy. Jean Baptiste shared that this is the bread basket for Rwanda, the most populous area and the area leading the country out of poverty.
At the hospital, we met Emmanuel Kamanzi, the project manager for PIH and Dr. Joel Mubiligi, Clinical Director. These Rwandan gentlemen were incredible ambassadors for PIH. They are truly committed to bringing best practice medicine to the rural areas of Rwanda. The government under Paul Kugame invited PIH to Rwanda in 2004 to help bring sense and organization to their rural health facilities. They cut their teeth in the east and south. In 2007, they were invited to the north where one physician covered 350,000 people with just a few nurse led clinics. There was one ambulance for all these people! In January 2009, Paul Farmer and Bill Clinton broke ground on the Burera Hospital. In December 2010, the keys to the completed facility were turned over to the Rwandan government. PIH manages the hospital, 15 rural health clinics and 6 ambulances for the government.
The hospital is a 143 bed, two OR community hospital. It was originally set up to deal with HIV/AIDS, TB, and obstetrics. The infant mortality rate was terrible nationally but even worse in the north. In discussing the future, Joel said they are moving into treatment of non- communicable diseases now that the life expectancy is increasing. People are getting old enough to have heart attacks, heart failure, and kidney failure. These are the diseases of prosperity. As the economy prospers, these disease states will be the next wave hitting them and they are preparing. They are also laying the foundation to apply for Joint Commission International Accreditation, which is a major undertaking for such a facility.
The design of the hospital minimizes patient flow and maximizes air flow. The outpatient department has intake, exam rooms, lab and payment all in one place. In the wards all beds face the windows, some with fantastic views of the lush green mountains.
The surgery suites were sparse but adequate. The anesthesia machines are state of the art. They have a GP on site who can do simple general surgeries like appendectomies. They also have an orthopedic surgeon on permanent rotation. His wife is an anesthesiologist. Consequently, they are busy doing over a hundred cases per month, 80% caesarian sections.
After leaving the hospital, completely impressed, we entered into the Volcano National Park. Jean Baptiste said it was not just the prettiest place in Rwanda, but the prettiest place on the planet. After our trip to the hotel, I am inclined to believe him! Tomorrow we will hopefully see the silver back guerillas! More to come.