Each year, Lacor Hospital holds its annual workshop towards the end of its fiscal year, which is June 31. This year the workshop was held on Saturday, June 21 when Sharon and I were in town. Dominique Corti graciously invited Social Promise to attend the workshop to learn about the triumphs and troubles throughout the previous year.
This was an all day event, scheduled to begin at 8:30am and end at 2:30pm. But I now know that people in Gulu run on Uganda time- which means things start much later than planned. I, fortunately, am a big fan of Uganda time. Little did I know that I am on Uganda time every day in NYC! The conference ended up beginning around 10am and lasted until about 5:30pm. I point this out as I believe the amount of time people spent there is significant and gave me some insight about the community’s dedication to Lacor.
The morning began with introductions- and there were many. The three hospital directors were in attendance as well as major groups that support the hospital such as the Canadian Teasdale Foundation, the Italian Corti Foundation, and to our honor, Social Promise. Government officials were there, as well as key stakeholders from in and around the city. But the biggest group of people, as we sat in front and looked out at the crowd, was the community. The patients. The reason Lacor Hospital was started. This workshop is held so the people can be heard, and their questions and concerns can be addressed.
Executive Director Dr. Cyprian Opira was the first person to speak. He talked about some of the highlights of the 2013-2014 fiscal year:
* 482 beds in the hospital today * 219, 834 patients treated in 2013-2014
* 590 employees * # of babies delivered has increased by 187% in the last 10 years
* Hospital admission is down 34% in the past 5 years * # of patients being treated has reduced 35% in the past 5 years
The increase in the numbers of women having their babies in the hospital is a testament to the staff. These women now realize how much better it is to be cared for by medical professionals rather than delivering in their villages. Additionally, the hospital has a new neonatal intensive care unit for babies born needing help. The survival rates of these babies is much higher, as a result. It is one part of the solution, however, to get the necessary equipment and open programs for people at the hospital. It is another thing to get people to actually come to the hospital and utilize these resources. The staff has done a great job, through education and training, getting the people of the community who need help inside the hospital.
When I first saw the statistics about fewer patients being treated and lower hospital admission, I was concerned. I think this is an initial feeling of many when reading this information: why is admission down if the hospital is doing so well? The reasons are, in fact, quite positive.
* Fewer cases of malaria. It was once the #1 killer in Gulu in 2009.
* Reduced number of people suffering from malnutrition due to improved food security.
* Improved living conditions since IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps were resolved and people moved back home. ( An IDP is someone who is forced to leave his/her own home but who remains within the country. IDP camps are similar to refugee camps, but the people do not flee the country.)
* Public health centers have reopened since the war ended and they are stocked with medicine and personnel.
After all the people in attendance spoke, the community members in the audience were given the opportunity to make comments and ask questions which were answered directly by one of the three hospital directors: Dr. Martin Ogwang, Dr. Emintone A. Odong and Dr. Cyprian Opira.
In the afternoon, everyone broke into discussion groups and brainstormed new ideas and new hopes for the future of Lacor Hospital. I felt a sense of community in the room, which is impressive as I am not even part of the community. Everyone was there, working together for the greater good of the hospital. The people of the community felt heard and acknowledged, which is all anybody really wants when voicing concerns. The hospital works to care for the people, because, as Dr. Opira explained, “Our patients are number one. They are the reason we exist.”