Friday, June 04, 2010

Not quite a party political broadcast!

I think, it may be *whispers* - summer!

I have spent the day in the garden today, not studying when I am meant to be studying. Instead, I discovered that my sewing machine cable would stretch from the outdoor socket to the table! Thus, I ended up accidentally making a top for the Little Miss! Ooops -so my anatomy won't be up to scratch but ye gods I'll be able to do a nice daisy chain stitch for those perinneal repairs ;-))

Anyway, to other things. I needs your help!

I know there are more of you that read this than acknowledge you read it and I am hoping you can spread the word.

An old school friend of mine runs a hospital in Uganda on the edge of the impenetrable rainforest. He has worked incredibly hard, with his partner, building this from a small clinic to a reputable hospital that serves the local community and beyond.

Anyway, I received this letter the other day:

I have to make difficult choices as a doctor in Bwindi. Please allow me to share with you a decision that I have just made.

Alice is 20 years old and lives in a town that is two days walk from Bwindi. She wanted to give birth to her first baby in a health centre rather than at home, so when she went into labour at 32 weeks gestation earlier this week she walked for a day to a small health unit high in the hills, the nearest one to her house. Three days ago she gave birth to a premature baby girl who weighs only 1kg (2.2.lbs) and is tiny. Knowing that the place where she delivered has no power, few drugs and no running water, the nurse there sensibly advised her to make her way to Bwindi. Attached is a picture of Alice and her baby in the neonatal unit.

Alice set off the day after her delivery and started walking towards Bwindi. After several hours she caught a lift on a Tea Wagon, but this truck only took her to the local Tea Factory where she spent the night. Yesterday she caught a ride on a truck carrying sand to Bwindi, and she arrived at the Hospital with her precious baby who was cold but still alive. Bwindi Community Hospital has developed an excellent specialist unit for sick newborn babies. Seven out of every eight newborn babies admitted to our unit survive. This is a fantastic survival rate, and is a brilliant testimony to our nurses who work around the clock caring for these special patients.

It costs us a lot of money to run our neonatal unit. We have had to spend on employing nurses and doctors to give 24 hour care to 156 newborn babies in the last year, and every month our numbers increase and babies come from further afield. The neonates are kept in a room heated by power that we generate from a diesel generator during the day and run off batteries at night. We provide the babies with oxygen, all of them get intravenous antibiotics, and they are fed every two hours through a nasal tube. The unit is light and clean, and the mothers stay in an adjacent room where they are able to watch their babies through a glass panel. All of this money is well-spent, because it is often the difference between life and death.

We are fortunate to be able to subsidise health care for most of the children under five in this area through the Child Health Access Program, or CHAP, supported by the Eurochange Charity. But in spite of their generosity this does not cover all of the costs of looking after all children, and we will fall short this year to the tune of about $50,000. This means tough choices, and one decision that we have made is to limit the subsidised care to the people who live nearest to the Hospital – the 60,000 residents of Kayonza and Mpungu. We can still care for other children from other places, but their parents have to pay the cost. This sounds harsh, but my mother always taught me that “money does not grow on trees” and until we discover a money tree in Bwindi we have to make difficult rationing decisions.

Sadly for Alice , her baby was born outside of our catchment area. This means that, according to the guidance that we have set, we have to charge her what it costs us to look after her baby. This amounts to about $15 a day, or $315 in total. We told this to Alice this morning, and the message that she has received back from her husband at home is that they cannot afford this cost. It is likely to exceed the annual income for their household. He has told the family to leave the Hospital tomorrow morning and make their way back home.

The chance of survival for Alice ’s child, a 1kg premature baby at 32 weeks gestation, is very low if she goes home. The chance of survival in the Hospital is much higher.

The nurses caring for the baby have asked me to break the rules and allow Alice to stay in the Hospital for the care that her baby needs. I think it is the right decision. But it is easy to make “kind” decisions if you don’t have to pay for them. In order to fund this decision we are asking for a donor to cover the cost of paying for this baby and the other newborn babies like her who want to access our care but for whom we have no income source. Adults are paying their share – so far more than 2,500 people have signed up to our eQuality Community Health Scheme. But I have decided to write this message in the hope that someone who has supported this amazing Hospital before will go the extra mile to help us, so that we can change the rules and allow all newborn babies, wherever they were born, to be able to access the care that we provide free of charge. Information about how to help us is on the Hospital website at

Many thanks

Dr Paul Williams

Medical Superintendent

Alice and her baby!

So, here is where you come in.

I need ideas.

I need something that I can organise that reaches a wider audience than my immediate family and friends that would raise some funds for this current need at Bwindi. I need a big name, or a celebrity face ultimately, or the likes of comic relief to take this on, but that's a pipe dream.

I have some limited skills, none of which would raise much, just some shrapnel. I have friends who have talents, but we all live very spread out and whilst we would and could do something, it will be low key and will raise a small amount I expect.

What this hospital needs is more than just small time donors who can send 50 quid here and there when they've saved up their 2p's (not that I'm belittling the real help that those donors provide!) , I think they need some way of setting up a trust that can supply a constant trickle of funds for this specific purpose.

Anyway, back to reality. In the meantime, I am looking for ideas of things that might draw in a wider audience and raise funds. I'm also looking to spread the word of the wonderful work that Bwindi does for the Batwa population in Uganda. If you think you can help either financially (maybe you can put 50p on one side everytime you read this blog? Maybe you can do a sponsored event or knit baby hats even that I can mail out) or with an idea, please let me know.

Thank you!

Oh and the link again is above!

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