Two years ago our team went to the Gashora medical centre, donated supplies and had a tour. At that time the facility was barely a year old and was nearly empty of patients. There weren't very many services that we could see in operation: they had a birthing room, exam rooms and a dispensary. Today we went to Gashora medical centre, donated supplies and had a tour. We saw a visible change.
Instead of the chief of medical staff providing the tour, a hospital administrator responsible for the new computer server room accepted our donations and explained what the state of affairs was now at the clinic. First, we could see lots of patients waiting for consultations outside the consultation room and others waiting to enroll in the heath insurance program outside the social workers' office. Instead of an echoing hall, there was a low hum of over 60 people waiting for service - first come first served. The administrator, Willie, explained the average number of patients see per day fluctuates from 60 - 100 to higher during rainy season when there are more diseases.
We got an introduction to their consultation process and the evaluation room where patients got tests done. Then we moved on to the family planning room. As Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, so we were told, the government has been encouraging family planning. The hope is to reduce poverty in part through reduced family sizes. It is an optional program and fully funded by the government. Instead of 8 or 10 kids, people are now reportedly having 2 or 3.
Next we learned about their HIV/AIDS treatment program which is also fully funded by the government. Patients get assessed and prescribed anti-retro viral medications. People get tested prior to getting married or otherwise if they feel sick. Pregnant mothers also get treatment in order to prevent the unborn child from becoming infected. They had not yet determined the success of the program as it has only been running for 2 years. What they could say was that this year 2 people in their program of 226 enrolled patients had died. As we had our orientation, we could count 4 women and one man outside the room and there was one man inside the consultation room.
The tour next took us to the hospital library where staff were encouraged to spend time improving their English as most medical books are in English. They have a partnership with the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (established by the daughters of the founder of Costco) who also use the library facilities. This library also houses two computer systems which transmit patient information, entered by specially trained staff, to the government.
Lastly we learned about the water purification system built by GE. They collect rain water and purify it so that it can be used in the hospital. They also sell it to the townspeople for a small fee, 5 Rwandan francs for 20 litres. It was quite impressive and hopefully will translate into great improvements in health now that clean water is available at the hospital.
I was amazed at how far the medical centre had come in such a short time. This was a village that didn't have electricity until 2009. Now the staff had moved from figuring out how to use the facility to identifying area for improving their current processes. In fact, they want to figure out a way to have all patient records on computer so that they can be accessed by medical staff at other facilities if patients go there. That sounded very familiar to those of us familiar with the challenges various Canadian provinces are experiencing trying to effect that change at home.
All in all it was very encouraging to see that the Rwandan government and the Rwandan people have used their ingenuity to improve their lives. They haven't simply taken donations and stood still but have embraced the opportunities in front of them with enthusiasm. Today was a good day indeed!
Rwanda, July 2012