This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.
I’ve been in Kampala for 3 full weeks now and my experiences have been wonderful, but I can’t come all the way to Uganda and not go and see my friends and partners in Masindi. I could have gone alone now that I’m familiar with the bus system since my trip to Mbale last weekend, but I just love Masindi so much that I wanted to share the experiences with some of the Ugandan students I’ve been working with here. Last fall, when the American pharmacy students were here, we conducted Blood Pressure screenings at 4 churches. At that time we had invited some of the Makerere students but another event prevented them from joining us. So, when I was planning this short weekend trip, I contacted a friend, Janine who is a health education missionary for the Masindi-Kitara Diocese of the Church of Uganda, to arrange another BP screening and I was able to convince three Makerere students, Edel, Linda, and Sam, to join me. We left Kampala on the 8:30am Link Bus, which actually departed at 9:30am, and had a safe journey to Masindi, arriving at 12:45pm. My friend, Sam who has been my Masindi driver for 3 years, was awaiting our arrival. It was so good to see him again! After getting settled in at my favorite Masindi hotel- The New Court View- we had a delicious lunch.
I had then arranged for us to go to the main medical facility that the Wilkes University pharmacy students and I work at when we are here, Masindi-Kitara Medical Center (MKMC), for a discussion of their mission, how it got started, and a tour of the facilities.
Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI), a humanitarian organization in South Carolina, started bringing medical missionary outreach teams to the Masindi District of Uganda back in 2008, four times a year, but the goal was always to develop a self-sustainable, permanent medical facility to bring quality healthcare to the region that was run and staffed entirely by Ugandans. PMI raised money stateside for the buildings and opened the doors of MKMC
back in December 2010. Initially the center was only an outpatient facility but soon more buildings were built and today they have about 35 total inpatient beds split between a general ward, pediatrics, and a labor and delivery unit.
They have their own lab, pharmacy, and operating theater where they perform anything from minor surgeries to cesarean sections to hysterectomies to abdominal surgeries. On average, they see about 1400 patients per month. They currently don’t have a pharmacist but do have a fully stocked pharmacy that is run by trained nurses and technical staff. It is their hope one day to be able to recruit a pharmacist not only to manage the pharmacy but to also collaborate with the medical providers to assure safe and effective medication use. One of the reasons I really wanted the Ugandan pharmacy students to come here was to see their project and learn about their sustainable model. The healthcare practitioners who work at MKMC are dedicated to performing their jobs to the best of their ability and they truly care about the patients. They work together in a collegial manner and the atmosphere around the clinic is so favorable. Also, the facilities are excellent compared to what is available to most Ugandans. When I asked the students what they thought of the facility one of them stated, “It was so lovely; it was so clean!” MKMC doesn’t provide free care like the government does; their vision is to provide high quality affordable care that is self-sustainable in a rural area. They believe that patients should take ownership of their health. The fees are very low and when a patient puts their own resources towards the care, they value it all the more and receive great value in return. For example, instead of waiting hours to be seen at many government healthcare facilities, most patients wait no more than 30-40min to see the clinician and MKMC purchases their drugs from the Joint Medical Stores which procures drugs from manufacturers that produce high quality and efficacious drugs. When asked about her thoughts on this model, one student remarked, “they think differently and are making it work.” PMI still helps to raise funds for building projects and expansion, but the day-to-day fees for service have been able to sustain their monthly budget, which means they are making their vision a reality. Below are some of the pictures I took of the students on Day 1 in Masindi.