INTERVIEW: Kampala Hospital Builds Confidence in Uganda’s Healthcare

Dr. Joris Vanderputten speaking to our reporter at his office in Kololo

The International community yesterday commemorated World Refugee Day. By February 2015, drug statistics showed that Uganda was hosting at the time 433, hospital 029 refugees and asylum seekers.

Among these include refugees from DR Congo (190, ed 158), South Sudan (166,594), Somalia (28,149), Rwanda (16,698) and Burundi (14,684).

However an influx of Burundian refugees fleeing civil unrest later added another figure of 7,659 by June.

Many humanitarian agencies and organizations have over time made efforts to assist these refugees in their settlement and later integration.

Refugee Law Project (RLP) in Uganda is an organization empowering asylum seekers, refugees and IDPs to enjoy their human rights and live dignified lives.

These yesterday called for inclusion of psychological assistance to refugees among priority interventions such as clean water, food, shelter and health.

RLP also urged humanitarian partners and the public to pay specific attention to the role of mental health in enabling refugee success and integration.

The Project figures show that 48 percent of the refugees are faced with depression, 39 percent with general distress while 33 percent of them suffer Post Traumatic Disorder.

Sexual violence is also a problem in 47 percent of refugees whereas 27 percent struggle with other physical and psychological torture.

According to RLP, the difficult support like helping a refugee sleep at night or to be able to avoid flashbacks when they see a uniform hasn’t been provided.

Long term effects of neglecting refugees’ mental health could include abandonment by spouses, losing respect of one’s children, stigmatization by community and sometimes drug abuse.

Among the Project’s recommendations are; collection of data on mental health, increased budget allocations for refugees’ mental health, reviewing of the current practices.
Dr. Joris Vanderputten, unhealthy a 42-year-old medical expert from Netherlands and Chief Executive Officer of the uptown Kampala Hospital finds no trouble naming Uganda amongst the most flexible and hardworking nations in the world.

ChimpReports’ Michael Ntezza caught up with him at his office in Kololo, price Kampala for a one-on-one about Uganda’s healthcare, what is ed excellent climate and chaotic road users.

Who is Dr. Joris Vanderputten?

Joris is a 42-year-old family man born in Netherlands, a qualified doctor specializing in Tropical medicine, surgery, pediatrics and public Health.

I am a married man with three kids. I have worked in Tanzania in a district hospital. That’s where I started to generate love for Africa, its peoples and culture.

Briefly take us through your childhood

During my childhood days, I liked sporting activities. I had a lot of interest in scientific subjects like maths, physics, biology and chemistry. I think becoming a doctor was the most logical decision. My Dad is a vet, my mother is a physiotherapist and most of my uncles and aunties were also doctors.

How did you join Kampala hospital?

I got in touch with Investors who told me they wanted to set up the hospital in Kamala and that they needed a CEO. I joined Kampala hospital in April 2014 after being chosen as the successful candidate.

I heard of this job from Netherlands as I was looking for consultancy work in Africa. It was a long process; I had to take numerous flights from Netherlands where I was staying with my family to hold interviews in Uganda.

It also took me some time and effort to complete the process of getting a work permit and immigrations documents, but it was all worth it.

Tell us a little bit about Kampala Hospital

The idea of establishing Kampala hospital was conceived in 1995 by a group of medical doctors, other professionals in Uganda and the hospital was opened in 2007.

The intention of establishing this hospital was to bring non-existent services to the country, that were sought by many people who frequently moved abroad to get say complex surgery operations like neurosurgery.

Another reason for establishment of this hospital was to create employment for Ugandan doctors who are experienced but lack employment

How far have you reached in realizing some of these dreams?

To a larger extent we have managed because we have put in place a number of modern machines in our theatres with well-trained surgeons to carry out operations that are really serious.

We have our hospital facilities open to all qualified medical practioners who may have patients in need of surgery but have no equipment and a convenient place to do the surgery.

The hospital is currently employing over seventy doctors and other support staff

What challenges has Kampala Hospital faced in its operations?

We have faced the problem of lack of qualified engineers to service and maintain our machines; to the extent that once a machine breaks down we have to bring in an engineer from outside.

The Hospital used to face a problem of unstable electricity power leading to the use of a generator which is costly.

What makes Kampala Hospital different from other Health facilities in Uganda?

Unlike other health facilities at Kampala Hospital we have got various types of doctors including part-time doctors from top medical facilities like Mulago Referral Hospital to supplement our full-time staff thus ensuring that our patients are well catered for.

One of the rooms on the hospital's private wing

One of the rooms on the hospital’s private wing

We have a number one private wing section, well equipped with all necessities that a patient needs.

We have questionnaires for our patients where we engage them on how to improve our services and we don’t take their advice for granted.

What difference do Ugandan doctors have compared to other doctors on the international market?

Ugandan doctors are very good because most of them are fluent in speaking English as well as eager to learn new things

We understand that Kampala Hospital is re-branding. Tell us more about the thinking behind this.

It’s true we are re-branding on Tuesday next week and it is a big function on which we are going to unveil to the public all that is offered at Kampala Hospital

Re branding is going to help us a lot in establishing ourselves among our customers especially those who didn’t know much about our services and location.

What are the future plans for Kampala Hospital?

We are planning to expand it from a seventy-bed hospital to a two-hundred bed facility of course will all the necessary medical equipment.

What have you found interesting during your one and half year stay in Uganda?

Ugandans are very welcoming people, they are ambitious and very hard working, if you want something done tomorrow, they’ll tell you, yes it can be done tomorrow. That’s not quite the case in the Netherlands.

But the food…It’s mostly matooke, beans and posho. Back home people have dishes from all over the world as well as art and music.  Also the family life here is quite traditional; people have so many children.

On the road, it’s quite chaotic. There are no rules, except when you drive into traffic police. If it’s a two way road, you see people creating the third lane and the forth lane, and then block the traffic from the other side! I think that jam in Kampala is not caused by the number of cars but the way Ugandans drive.

But the good thing is that when you are in the jam, it’s not boring; there’s a lot going on, you see people pacing around you on bodas, you could actually do all your shopping in the jam, people are selling all sorts of things; newspapers, shoes …”

The environment is fantastic.  It’s not like anything I have seen elsewhere in the world.  It’s here that it rains heavily in the morning and in the afternoon it is shining bright.

What do you do over the weekends?

I usually go to Game parks like Lake Mburo national park where I enjoy the weekend with my family in a cool natural environment which is not here in the city

At times I go out and enjoy live music at places like Gatomato, Live Mic and other places in town.

Advice to Ugandans?

I call upon all Ugandans before preparing to go abroad for any surgery and treatment; they should make consultations with medical experts here.

Many of them waste a lot of time and resource travelling outside the country while something could have been sorted out here.



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