“The concept of rapid, emergency care which we take for granted in America is not the standard in Uganda. But GECC is helping make it the standard.”
Written by: Dr. Omeed Saghafi, Volunteer Physician
I am an Emergency Physician who volunteered with Global Emergency Care Collaborative as an instructor and physician at the Nyakibale site. I have volunteered internationally with several organizations but I can honestly say that GECC was the paragon of programs. Too many international programs focus on delivering short-term care. As soon as they leave, medications or surgeries that patients become accustomed to are no longer available, logistics fall apart, and a rural village is actually worse off than before the helping hands arrived. This is not the case with GECC. The program focuses on creating sustainability by training ECPs to not only treat patients, but to also teach future ECPs. These ECPs are both eager to learn and eager to teach. I teach residents and medical students in America, but I have never seen anyone so excited to teach and learn as the ECPs in Uganda; they do so as if their lives and the lives of everyone they care about depends on it. The Ugandan students often only ate one real meal a day, but they ate emergency medicine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They were either working, teaching, or learning from sunrise to sunset; and they did so with joy and excitement.
The ECPs also provide much-needed emergency care. I once asked a patient who had his leg shattered by a truck what he did in parts of Uganda without emergency care. He said he would go to a clinic and wait to be seen. Sometimes patients at clinics would have to wait for hours or days. It is not uncommon for patients to die waiting in Uganda. I watched the ECPs save an endless number of patients facing imminent death from malaria, traumatic injuries, typhoid, and a host of diseases. With only limited resources, these patients had little chance of survival, and the only thing that saved them was getting to those resources (hydration, antibiotics, closing a bleeding a wound) as fast as possible. The concept of rapid, emergency care which we take for granted in America is not the standard in Uganda. But GECC is helping make it the standard. ECPs at Nyakibale and Masaka treated 20,000 patients this year. Ultimately, GECC will be training 15 ECPs per year at Masaka and each ECP is expected to treat 40,000 patients in his or her career, meaning for every 25 ECPs trained, 1 million Ugandans will receive high quality medical care that they otherwise would not have received. GECC is creating a truly sustainable system that is changing the way a country provides medical care, ultimately saving lives.