Dear friends, 

On March 21st 2020, Uganda registered its first COVID-19 case. Immediately, Lacor selected team joined the task force of the fight against the pandemic in the city of Gulu, putting in place several measures to decongest Lacor Hospital, identify cases early, prevent the spread of the infection, and protect the staff with the constant personal protective equipment procurements and with vaccination. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Lacor has accepted about 6,500 cases of Covid suspicion; of these, 1,350 tested positive and were cured. The most serious cases, about a third, were hospitalized in the Covid Unit; the others were followed up on from their home. 

This issue of the newsletter reunites us with Dr. Bruno Corrado, who has been helping Lacor’s team in Uganda during the pandemic. You’ll also read about the importance of Amuru’s health centre, which was recently refurbished. Finally, we give a snapshot glance at Lacor’s activities over twelve months of work at the hospital while highlighting the benefits of continuing health education. 

The pandemic has been long and difficult, and we have all seen much suffering. But when we look closely at the courage and determination of health care workers and those who give support to health care workers, we also have reason to feel gratitude, admiration, and optimism. We hope with all our hearts that you are healthy and well. 

We wish you a good spring, 

Teasdale-Corti Team

Greetings and reflections from Bruno Corrado, who, until fifteen years ago, was Lacor’s director, succeeding Piero Corti. For the past few months, Bruno has been in Uganda, where he tells us about the present and the past of the hospital, with a look to the future. 

“It’s the beginning of the year,” he says. “We’re in the middle of the dry season, and this is a crucial moment in the life of Lacor. From the middle of our financial year, which traditionally ends on June 30, the sums are drawn and the acceleration of what remains to be done increases. This has been the case in the many years I have been here, but profound changes in 2007 led to effects that are clearly visible even today. 

“Two fundamental things happened that year for the future of the hospital: we formed our first five-year strategic plan, and we undertook the leadership transfer to the current Ugandan team. In 2003, when I was asked to take over the management of the hospital, I had accepted on the condition that, within five years, I would pass the reins to a Ugandan management team. 

“Our first strategic plan, apart from being a bureaucratic exercise, helped the hospital not to disperse under the pressure of ever more new needs. Lacor has remained faithful to its mission: to provide responses to the most relevant health problems in its region, in particular those of women and children, by reaching the most disadvantaged sections of the population. Strategic choices in favour of the poorest have remained firm even during this pandemic year. 

“The current situation at Lacor reminds me of others I witnessed at Lacor, including measles, HIV, and Ebola. Seeing that a relevant part of the hospital is an isolation area for Covid patients brings to mind when we had up to 60 Ebola patients. The Covid department is well organized, and the most serious patients from the region are brought here because the hospital has its own oxygen production and distribution plant. This is part of the success of Lacor’s Ugandan leadership, who has managed to overcome the obstacles that I faced when I was the Director. Today, the plant, unique in northern Uganda, supplies oxygen bottles to the nearby public hospital.” 

As Piero, Lucille, and Bruno himself wanted, today all of Lacor’s health workers are Ugandan and the mission of the hospital has remained to treat the most fragile. 

We are in Amuru, one of Lacor’s three peripheral health centres. In this Covid era, the centre has turned out to be even more far-sighted than anticipated. In fact, in the last year, the number of women who reached the prenatal clinic of Amuru increased. As many as 800 expecting mothers found care and support here.

“These rural centres are crucial for those who live in the communities,” declared the Institutional Director, Dr. Martin Ogwang, at the inauguration of Amuru’s newly renovated facilities. “Patients sometimes come from very far and often do not have the means to get to Lacor or cannot afford to reach other centres where treatment is provided at a cost.”

At Amuru and Lacor’s two other centres, Pabbo and Opit, mothers and children do not pay the contribution required from those who can afford it, a contribution which does not exceed 30% of the actual cost incurred by the hospital.

Lately, Lacor technical team has fortified the facilities for the patients. Dr John, responsible for Amuru Health Centre, asserts: “The building intended for the Maternity has been renovated. There were no separate rooms to visit patients or perform procedures, such as cervical cancer screening. There was no waiting room either, and we often had to stop the service during the rainy season. Thanks to the renovations, more rooms have been created where the privacy of mothers is protected. A large covered space was added for others to wait their turn.”

Jane, a midwife and a nurse, mentions, “Prenatal services have also greatly improved. Ultrasound scans to detect early risks to the mom or to the baby are now being introduced.”

An important contribution of the health centres is basic health care education. Dr. Martin explains: “The services rendered here mainly concern the health of the mothers and the children, but we also have an HIV clinic. Instead of going to the hospital, patients come to take their medication at the health centre.”

“We also take care of basic health assistance,” Jane adds. “As an example, we reach out to communities in the villages, where we talk to future mothers, explaining the maternity risks and the need to come to the hospital or to the health centres without delay.”

“We thank the donors who have made all this possible,” emphasized Dr. Martin Ogwang. “Because only this way is it possible to reach the women of the community and improve their health and future.”

2020-2021 is a year that shows the signs of the pandemic. Lacor Hospital and its three peripheral centres welcomed around 208,000 people looking for care. Almost 30,000 of them were hospitalized. 

With the effects of Covid, these numbers represent an overall decline of around 11% from the last financial year. This reduction was inevitable because of people’s fear of getting infected in hospitals, combined with strong restrictions to the movements imposed by the government. 

Lacor Hospital, with its 8,000 births, is still confirmed as one of the greatest maternity reference centres in Uganda. Many mothers travel great distances, like Liza Amony, urgently transported from the health centre of Adjumani 200km away. At Lacor, Liza was saved from certain death by eclampsia, a very serious pathology of pregnancy. 

Maternal mortality remains an important challenge. At Lacor, we often see the most desperate cases. The reasons? The distance from the villages, the closure of some nearby health centres, the reluctance of many women to give birth in hospital, and the inability to recognize in time complications of pregnancy. 

From analyzing the numbers closely, we notice a leap forward for demands in prenatal visits: over 29,000. At last, we are seeing the results of years of health education reassuring women of the importance of prenatal visits during pregnancy and of giving birth in a sanitary centre. 

Increasingly, mothers are turning to one of Lacor’s peripheral health centres, indispensable sites of reference for the rural population. “In general,” reflects Dr. Emintone Odong, Medical Director and Head of Gynecology and Obstetrics, “we had an increase of 2,000 prenatal visits, thanks to the fact that our clinics have remained open despite Covid.” 

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