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Keeping Tabs on GEC Work in South-Western Uganda

John Bosco Kamugisha is the Programme Coordinator for GEC in Uganda. Currently, 

GEC is in collaboration with Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in south-western Uganda to train emergency care practitioners (ECPs) in Uganda. His human resource role involves coordinating trainers and all the activities for the program as well as providing curriculum oversight for the course. 

JB, as he is popularly known by colleagues, was first introduced to emergency care when he met the president of GEC back in 2006 – 2007 while working at Nyakibale Hospital in Rukungiru district. “At that time, there was no emergency care in the hospital. It is so unfortunate that people would die because there was no one to offer the specialized care needed for emergencies,” he recollects. 

Then, things began to unfold. In 2007, the Emergency Department was started in the hospital, and in 2008, training for hospital staff on job commenced. But it was not sustainable because although it offered skills, it didn’t have professional accreditation. “Later, when we had understood what was needed and streamlined our processes, we started providing certificate and diploma courses,” he says.

In 2015, the team engaged Masaka Regional Hospital to pilot the project that was in Rukungiri. And in 2017, MUST approved the advanced diploma program that enabled them to offer accredited programs. Since then, Uganda has graduated two cohorts, with the third expected next year. And to scale up the course, a new curriculum is under review by the relevant academic authorities in Uganda to upgrade the advanced diploma program to a bachelor’s degree in emergency medicine.  

One of the gaps hindering the development of ECPs is the limited space at Masaka Hospital and Mbarara Hospital, which cannot accommodate more than ten students at a time. “If we can have more space, then we can admit more students,” JB says. 

On the bright side, the Ministry of Health in Uganda has supported the team with scholarships for students. This is a clear indication of the government’s recognition of the need to develop emergency medicine in the country. Uganda now has a master’s program in EM offered at MUST and Makerere University, with MUST having graduated its first class, while Makerere University is set to graduate its first class this year. Emergency Medicine is a new specialist profession; people are beginning to see the fruits, and some universities are beginning to consider it. 

The role of EPCs was highlighted at the time of COVID-19, especially in the Masaka region, one of the hotspots in Uganda. Some of the ECPs were deployed as frontline workers at the Uganda-Tanzania border to man the Covid-19 testing center, while others were deployed at the Covid-19 unit in Masaka Hospital. “Covid-19 was pretty engaging for us. With the skills acquired in emergency care, I remember working on a family that included a mother, father, and child who had contracted Covid-19. We provided the best kind of care they needed. All the affected members survived, and they are alive, happy, and living productive lives,” JB says.

Looking into the future, JB is very hopeful. He says, “We have seen considerable progress from where we started to where we are now. We want to scale up our training to support everyone involved in emergency care.”

GEC has made significant strides since 2017, starting with diplomas to now having EM accredited at higher levels of training. This is a significant achievement in providing lifesaving care for vulnerable communities in Uganda, and we invite you to support this cause. You can do so by donating to help us train emergency care professionals to save lives. Click HERE to donate and remember to tell a friend to tell a friend!

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