The central focus of the team was to launch an innovative pilot ambulance service, using a combination of pushbike and motorbike ambulances. These will help evacuate emergencies out of the remote mountain villages in the Mbale region, which is twinned with Rhondda Cynon Taff. The idea for the ambulances was developed by Paramedic Julian Newton and his team, who had witnessed on previous visits mothers losing their lives in labour after being carried to hospital on the back of a bicycle.
The GP team have been working over the past 5 years to train volunteer health workers in remote villagers to provide Primary Care to their communities. These often faced the harrowing situation of seriously ill patients who died because of lack of transport. During the week over 100 of these were trained in recognising life threatening conditions, then equipped with a telephone to call the ambulance when needed.
Last year a team of midwives led by Yeasmin Pugh visited Mbale on a scoping exercise. This has led to a further 100 midwives and Traditional Birth Attendants being trained to recognise obstructive labour , and equipped with telephones also. They were accompanied by Dr Sean Watermeyer, a consultant Obstetrician from the Royal Glamorgan hospital, who has formulated plans to further train the midwives in procedures normally conducted by doctors during difficult births.
The hospitals in Mbale are in dire need of improvements, so Dr Sue Ackerman and nurse Dianne Davies from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital spent the week trying to train staff and improve services at the A&E department. This inevitably led to some harrowing experiences as they witnessed the lack of care available to seriously sick and injured patients, several of whom died.
The whole project would not have been possible without the support of a dedicated team of engineers led by Howard Smith. Apart from supervising construction of the pushbike ambulances and assembly of the motorbike ambulances, they also launched a £20,000 water project in a village recently ravaged by Cholera.
The team included Dr Tony Jewell, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales. With his help, a meeting was held with the Minister of Health in Kampala, who was understandably impressed by the breadth and depth of the work in Mbale. As a result, he has given his support for the project to develop further across the whole region.
Towards the end of the week the team were invited to go to meet with President Museveni. They were able to demonstrate the motorbike ambulance, to his great interest.
The team coordinator, Dr Geoff Lloyd said “This was one of the most challenging trips to date, due to the many technical and clinical problems the team faced in launching the service. However the team were great professionals, and dealt with each hurdle they came across, so as a result it was also one of the most rewarding visits so far. We are now beginning to see real projects which solve real problems which improve the lives of real people- what more could you ask for?”