Before leaving to the Panzi-hospital in Bukavu, now a week ago, I had put three objectives for myself:
1. Register an interview with Benjamin Cadière and witness the added value he gives on the ground with the money we raised. (done)
2. Walk and talk on the ground to feel, smell and taste what is living in this forgotten region robbed from its minerals by all. (done)
3. Have an interview with Doctor Mukwege to find out his next priorities in building out the Panzi Hospital. (done)
Thanks to Professor Cadière and Doctor Mukwege I was allowed to walk freely in the hospital and steered many discussions towards the needs of the hospital.
When certain requirements came often….I penned them down in my little notebook, if I encountered it only once….I left it for what it was.
Without going into enlarging the hospital from 450 patients to 600 patients or any other “substantial” investment, I wrote down 7 recurrent needs for a total, on the back of an envelope, of about USD 500.000.
I was quite satisfied during the interview with Doctor Mukwege that the four most urgent needs he put forward for the hospital were on my list. I will shortly explain in today’s blog what those four are about and will add a fifth one myself.
1. A kitchen for the patients (450 up to 600) and the school (550) 12,000 USD.
a. A classical intervention or by laparoscopy asks a lot of a human body. The body burns extra calories for wounds to heal which makes adequate nutrition a cornerstone for a quick and good recovery. The patient can be helped for his or her wounds or diseases in the hospital but if no family cooks for them a “decent” meal a day it limits the recovery of the patient. Many patients have been rejected by their families, 70% of the patients cannot pay 1 USD for their total stay at the hospital putting a high risk at the kind of meals they find. Key for the hospital to increase its success and for the patients to recover faster is a well-organized centralized kitchen that has control over the nutrition.
b. You have seen some pictures of the school and its 550 children that follow classes at the small school. A protein rich meal per day is here also a key element for success in the development of the children.
2. A farm that can deliver the daily needs for the kitchen. 15,000 USD
Building a kitchen and buying all utensils is maybe the easiest part of the nutrition program. The hardest part is creating a farm that is big enough to become profitable after 3 to 4 years. Similar as Christine who built a farm that makes the City of Joy independent, the purpose of this project is similar. The idea is to start small (400 chickens, 3 cows, a vegetable garden…) to give the necessary experience before building it out professionally (additional amount will be needed) so that it is again a place where women can be integrated in the local economy by creating jobs and become profitable.
3. Pre-screening. 20,000 USD
Intervening at an early stage of an illness or prevention is non-existent in the Kivu- region. In most of the cases, even when sexual violence is involved, people arrive too late at the hospital with multiple complications.
Doctor Mukwege together with Benjamin Cadière would like to launch a prevention program where people receive a free screening during one morning a week. The hospital would keep the data of the screening. However when it results that a screened person needs an intervention at the hospital, there is a need of a fund that can take care of the financing of the treatment if the person has no money, which is in most of the cases. Today the hospital is unable to take in additional patients as its limited financial situation does not allow subsidizing them. Due to the nature of the project there would be a regular need to refill this fund. There is no past experience on this approach.
4. Renovate the dormitories 130,000 USD
It was explained that the original capacity for the hospital was for 150 patients and now holds 450. Patients with different pathologies lay in dormitories of 15 to 30 increasing the risk of infection. Due to the lack of a central kitchen a member of the family needs to be around to cook for the family-member increasing the risk of infection. Building rooms for 3 to 5 beds where patients with similar pathologies could be sleeping would increase the success-rate at the hospital and reduce substantially the usage of the morgue.
Next to two small operational units for caesarian interventions (40,000 USD), the renewal of the operational block (130,000 USD), a fund for micro-finance to help the women establish a proper activity (20,000 USD), build a new school that has become far to small (not calculated), build new blocks to enlarge the hospital to 600 patients, I would like to add a small additional small project to the four Doctor Mukwege pointed out.
5. Today there are 3 intervention rooms but no room where patients can wake up from the narcosis once the intervention is over. Along the whole week I heard Maxime, Guyber, Lizette, Benjamin, Hadia, Amaury and Marc complain that the operative room was occupied by the patient until he woke up. As this takes on average 1 hour this means a loss of at least one additional intervention per room per day or 15 additional patients that could have been treated during the five days if an additional room is installed in the operative block. 7,000 USD
Here ends my blog for the one week I spent in Panzi-hospital. I committed to take up my pilgrimage staff during my free time to support the initiative of this remarkable man. I do not ask myself “if” Doctor Mukwege should receive the Nobel prize for peace but “when” he will be recognized for the work he does.
This evening I am flying back from Brussels to Lisbon. Tomorrow morning the professional life calls.