A children’s surgical hospital, constructed by EMERGENCY in Entebbe, opened its doors to its first patients on April 19. [EMERGENCY is a humanitarian NGO that provides free medical treatment to the victims of war, poverty and landmines.]
According to the ministry of health, the first patients are “Ramadhan, Topista, Justine, Katongole, Matovu and Jordan” who are aged between 3 and 11 years old.
They were admitted for “a range of medical conditions concerning the genital area, gastrointestinal tract, and supraumbilical hernias,” the ministry said.
Set up on the banks of Lake Victoria, almost 4,000 feet (1,200 m) above sea level, the facility was designed pro bono by Renzo Piano, one of the world’s leading architects, after meeting with Gino Strada, the founder of EMERGENCY.
The healthy facility will provide “free, high-quality treatment” to children from across Africa. The ministry says the hospital had been ready for a year now, but the opening was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The hospital is equipped to deal with wide-ranging health complications and facilitate surgeries for those born with defects, urological and gynaecological problems, gastrointestinal tract issues, diseases of the bile duct, and cleft lip.
“At full capacity, the hospital will employ 385 local people, 179 of whom are medical workers. The ratio of local to foreign staff is four to one amongst the surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and technicians, while 95% of non-medics are Ugandan,” the ministry said.
The hospital will be dedicated to training Ugandan staff, who will go on to improve paediatric surgery and medical care in Uganda.
“Healthcare in Africa should be at the same level as it is in the Global North. This project comes with all the skills, equipment and technologies needed to start high-level surgery in an extraordinary facility. We are all part of the human family. We are ‘equal in dignity and rights’, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says. We have a responsibility to provide exactly the same level of treatment for African children that is expected in richer countries,” said Strada, according to an official statement.
In Uganda, the mortality rate for children under five is 49 for every 1,000 live births, and 30% of those deaths are due to a lack of adequate surgery.
The Entebbe-based hospital has tripled the number of surgical beds for children in Uganda and will become a referral point for surgery from patients across the continent.
It is the second facility in the African Network of Medical Excellence (ANME), after EMERGENCY’s Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, built in Khartoum, Sudan, in 2007.
The network was launched by EMERGENCY and 11 African countries have signed up to it so far, with a view to building a chain of medical facilities of excellence that will meet specific medical needs continent-wide.
The facility has 100,000 square feet (9,700 m2) of floor space, three operating theatres, 72 beds – six for intensive care and 16 for sub-intensive care – an observation and stabilisation ward, six clinics, a radiology room, laboratory with a blood bank, CT scanner, pharmacy, administration, auxiliary services, a guesthouse for patients from afar, reception, medical training rooms, and an outdoor play area.
The hospital’s walls are made of rammed earth, following a traditional building method that provides thermal inertia, keeping temperature and humidity constant inside the hospital.
Particular care has gone into ensuring environmental sustainability, with approximately 2,500 solar panels covering one-third of the centre’s energy needs.
“The opening of the hospital is a major milestone for the children of Uganda and the region at large. The facility will offer high-quality free paediatric surgeries for children in Uganda and across the region,” Dr Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health, said.
“This is part of a deliberate effort by government to strengthen the healthcare system, reduce medical referrals abroad and improve health service delivery for our children. This facility will also be a landmark for Uganda as a referral destination for paediatric surgeries and training centre for our critical workforce. I would like to appreciate EMERGENCY and all our partners that have made this hospital a reality.”