Thursday, March 8, 2012

Africa and Oslo

As our African bishops gathered for their conference in the rather luxurious hotel complex in Entebbe at the end of August, their good health was made a priority. Mengo Hospital provided a 24 hour clinic to ensure that all routine and emergency health issues were dealt with effectively. I know this because I had to make use of it myself. With a growing fever, I was grateful to Dr. Kalibbala Sendi for swift action to ensure that any danger from a possible malarial attack was offset by a heavy dose of the latest combined therapy drugs.

As it happened I had met Dr. Sendi the week before while I was visiting his hospital. Mengo was the first hospital in East Africa, opened in 1897 in Kampala. It has grown over the years to cover many specialities and remains one of the key referral hospitals in Uganda. It sits just below the Cathedral in Namirembe, close to the provincial offices. The Church of Uganda has an extensive commitment to health care. It employs somewhere between 25-30% of the entire health workforce of the country. To give me a broader insight into the range of settings in which health services are provided I had also visited the Azur Christian Health Centre in Hoima, which serves a more rural community. Bishop Nathan and his staff have been committed over many years to see this clinic emerge into a level 4 health centre, and recognize the importance of further development in the future. The needs are increasing all the time, especially with an average fertility rate of 7.2.

My own rather modest health concerns were not quite resolved at the conference clinic. From Entebbe I headed off to Oslo to a meeting to plan a major international conference on faith-based health care due in November 2011. We were there at the invitation of the director of a Church of Norway hospital. By the end of the first day's meeting, I found myself hanging from a drip in that same hospital while tests were conducted. No major problems emerged, but it was the first night I ever spent in a hospital.

I am familiar with the health risks of travelling. But I do hope that this will not emerge as a pattern. To receive treatment from every hospital I visit in the future will prove a testing vocation. I certainly hope this was a one-off. But It nevertheless reinforced in my experience the comfort that our health facilities offer throughout the world to people facing the fear and pain of disease. Providing the skills and reassurances of good health care systems allows the Church to serve people at their moments of deepest need.

Thanks to those who cared for me this time round. And a blessing to all of you who do this sort of thing day after day, week after week.


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