The previous blog describing Tim Goodacre and Nigel’s visit in October 2013 left off at Cirunga health centre, an hour’s drive outside of Bukavu town.
Progress has been made since that visit, and now the windows and doors are on and there is only plastering and painting left to finish the new maternity unit which will serve a population of 15,000.
Tim continues his story….
“After visiting the poorly-resourced Cirunga centre, it was a relief to see the brilliant mission hospital at Panzi, Bukavu, which has excellent surgical facilities, and acts as a reference hospital for the region of 7 million people.
We were delighted to meet Professor Ahuka, who has set up a specialist surgical training at Panzi University, and who made a presentation on the immense surgical needs in eastern DRC. Professor Ahuka immediately recalled operating on a patient with a cleft palate from reading an article I had written 15 years ago!
Having seen some very encouraging surgical procedures being undertaken with competent anaesthetic support, we sped off hastily back into Bukavu town along roads that Nigel described as “superbly rehabilitated”, but which delivered something I imagine would equate to a tyre-less vehicle ride over a freshly dug quarry! We then picked our way carefully by foot over the mud tracks leading to the St Matthieu health centre.
My immediate impression was of a truly, excellently functioning facility with highly dedicated staff at all levels. The spirit of the place, the enthusiasm with which each member of the team took us around the cramped but clean rooms, and the distinct presence of hope was uplifting.
The buildings have a few wards, which cannot accommodate much more than 5 or 6 beds, a small delivery suite, clean and useable in distinct contrast to other centres, a tiny laboratory room, and the necessary store rooms and dispensing facility. There is, as yet, no serviceable surgical facility, which leapt out as a glaring need for the population of the area.
I certainly left St Matthieu’s with a huge sense of possibility and hope, and would want to work alongside the dedicated staff there to achieve new goals in the coming years.
We also had the chance to visit the delightful Dr Polelpole Tshomba, and see his St Vincent centre. Tshomba and his colleagues espouse a version of “Robin Hood’ surgical care, offering a completely free service for the poor funded by fees from the more wealthy.
The urgency to retreat safely before dark meant a relatively speedy departure into our crowded vehicle, and a short drive to our base. We were expected for delicious feasts with Bishop Bahati’s family and then with Bahati the medical coordinator (with confusingly the same name as the Bishop) and were made exceedingly welcome in both homes. With suitable translation from the ‘Swahili-French’ which switches from one language to another mid-sentence and sometimes back & forth endlessly, our final perspective of the service needs and update was complete.
East Congo is a place of unfathomably deep resources, both in material terms but also people, which has suffered needlessly from the ravages of human greed and selfish behaviour. A degree of peace, not experienced for over 20 years, has begun to descend on parts of the region. Not only do we all long for such cessation of hostility to persist permanently, but with it, a balanced, sustainable and profoundly transforming development in life for the population as a whole.
Many, many, challenges lie ahead – the well-governed and managed use of external support and funds not the least among them. The Semiliki Trust is a well-developed conduit for partnership through which such goals might be attained for at least some of our friends and colleagues in Congo.
I look forward to encouraging support whenever possible for such good people.”
Dr Tim Goodacre