Easter has arrived and it is the rainy season in Bwindi. It’s breakfast time here but I imagine it will be time for ‘break tea’ at BCH. Break tea is an institution. Sweet milky tea and chapati part way through the morning is not to be missed. When the rain stops the grass around the wards are a hive of activity. Brightly coloured squares of cloth lie drying in the sun and families sit preparing food for their relatives who are ill. Water lies in bright droplets on the large leaves of the plantains that grow up the slope from the side of the hospital. Behind, the mountains stretch, verdant and seemingly inaccessible, though the odd red roof is visible hiding amongst the trees suggesting otherwise. Tourism levels are still low, unfortunately affecting the hospitals income. The hope is that numbers will return in June, as the peak season begins, but it remains to be seen whether travel restrictions in Europe and the US, and traveller caution, will still limit this. Out-patient department attendance is still also reduced (about 75% of normal), again affecting the hospital’s income.
Despite these concerns’ BCH continues to strive in its role as a teaching institute and one devoted to innovative projects and research. The students of Uganda Nursing School Bwindi all passed their final exams with 32% passing with distinction (higher than the national rate of 13.9%). All existing students are back at the nursing school and the new intake of students have recently arrived. A new collaborative four-year research project with universities in the US and the EpiCenter for Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence (EEIDI) on Zoonotic diseases has just started. This will look at identifying and monitoring of new infections diseases, a very topical area in the current climate. To supplement this BCH is also looking to develop its mobile phone-based system for sharing information with patients into a rapid infectious disease surveillance system for use in poor remote areas like Bwindi. A further research project on Anti-Microbial resistance with Colgate University is also planned to start in the next couple of months and BCH has recruited an additional part time graduate lab technician for this.
There is a good deal of positive staff news. BCH has now recruited a full-time surgeon and a radiologist and is seeking to recruit a full-time Medical Officer for the Out-patient department. Most of the staff have now had their first Covid 19 vaccination with Dr Birungi, the eminent ED of BCH, being the 126th staff member.