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.
This is only my second full day in Uganda at the University and I’m already as busy as if I’d been here for weeks. I guess that is my way, though. I like to jump right in and get to work. Today began with a meeting at Mulago Hospital to discuss the new plans to have the pharmacy students experience precepted learning activities as they work on the wards alongside the Interns as I mentioned in my last post. As expected, although everyone’s goal is basically unified, the path to get there still needs more negotiation and creative planning. After this meeting, I went back to the pharmacy school to review the meeting with those who couldn’t attend. Putting our heads together, I think we may have come up with a suitable alternative. I will have to work on this a bit and sketch the plans out on paper. So stay tuned for more news later this week. After this 2nd meeting, I sat in on another meeting where the faculty of the pharmacy school were planning their approach to put in a proposal to assess the Village Health Team (VHT) program. This was implemented in 2001 by the Ministry of Health to improve access to healthcare and education at the village level.
In Uganda, there are basically 6 levels of healthcare. The VHT consists of villagers who go through a specific training program so they can be the first point access to healthcare when there is illness as well as to promote preventative care, like vaccinations, peri-partum care (care of mothers-to-be before, during, and after birth), and well-baby check ups. As far as I know the VHT go to the villages and to homes primarily rather than having the community members come to them. The second level of care is the Health Center 2 (HC2). This is a facility that is staffed by a Nurse and some Nursing Aids or Assistants. They provide exams for well and sick patients and provide medications but there are no laboratory facilities. The HC3 is staffed by a Nurse at an advanced training level or a Clinical Officer, which is similar to a Physicians Assistant in the USA and these facilities have a laboratory for basic tests. The HC4 is officially a hospital and has at least one full physician on staff. They perform surgery and have a full lab along with x-ray and some other diagnostic testing equipment. When patients need more advanced care they can be referred to a HC5, which is basically just called a Referral Hospital. The final level of care is a much bigger Referral Hospital like the Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, the primary experiential training site for the health programs at Makerere University. This hospital has 2000 beds but the average patient census is well over that- I’ve read up to 3000!
Back to the meeting about the research proposal: An NGO working for the Ministry of Health, Pathfinder, put out a request for proposals (RFP) to assess the status of the VHT program, especially the status of the level of training of the current VHT staff and the school of pharmacy faculty are planning to apply. The final meeting of the day was at Pathfinder’s facility. They were having a Q&A session for those who wanted to apply to discuss any ambiguities in the RFP and to make sure all organizations had the same information about the RFP. Since I have never been involved with this type of proposal to an NGO I wanted to attend to observe the process. It was an ordinary meeting but I did find it interesting. The thing that impressed me the most was that whichever group gets the bid, the final report should be completed within 90 days. This seems pretty fast since the group will have to interview and conduct research all over Uganda, even to the far reaches, analyze the results and write the report all in 3 months time. It helped me to understand that those organizations doing this type of work must have gotten very proficient over time and with experience.
My final hour was spent working in the nice office they has given me to use during my time here. I have a wonderful officemate, Lucy, who works with the groups that do research in the school of health sciences and she was one of the meeting attendees. She is in the pictures attached with the pink jacket. Gloria, another researcher, is in the photo with Lucy in the blue shirt.
As titled, I believe you can agree this was a “day full of meetings” but unlike some people, I was actually revved up at the end of the day. I guess this is my extrovert traits shining through, but really, I was excited because there is progress being made towards advancing pharmacy practice in Uganda through the new pharmaceutical care curriculum and I’m a part of it. I also love to see how engaged the faculty are in this process and their commitment to improving health though community empowerment, like the VHT program.