Nurse from Uganda steps on his first plane to visit Trust which helps transform thousands of lives

5th February 2024

‘Practising medicine at Kiwoko Hospital is very different compared to what we do in Northern Ireland. There are lots of challenges that we do not face. However, very quickly you realise that with sometimes very little, you can still make a tremendous difference in saving lives, relieving pain and improving care.  It is very satisfying to see that.”

These are the thoughts of Consultant Endocrinologist, Dr Roy Harper as he showed Frank Sekyewa, a distinguished nurse trained in Ophthalmology from Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda, around the Ulster Hospital.

Frank who is known in Uganda for his expertise and commitment to eye care, has been some time in Northern Ireland learning and engaging with various healthcare professionals.

His visit is part of an ongoing partnership between Kiwoko Hospital and the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust which was formed in 2006 and has been adopted for many years as the “Chairman’s Charity”. Staff within the Trust fundraise for  Hospital, send disused equipment and arrange for teams to visit each year ,bringing particular skills and expertise.

Speaking in the Ulster Hospital, Frank said, “The partnership with the Trust is important in so many ways.  Lives have been transformed. Kiwoko has benefitted greatly in terms of fundraising, the donation of equipment and teams coming out to support and work alongside healthcare staff in Uganda, it does makes a difference.  It is vital that this partnership continues, thousands of people in Uganda really benefit from this.  People can travel for days up to 100km to receive care in Kiwoko Hospital.  The support given to Kiwoko Hospital contributes towards affordable accessible healthcare, something they would not be able to get elsewhere.

“The healthcare system here in Northern Ireland is so different from Uganda. This is my first visit to Northern Ireland.  I have never left Uganda before or had the opportunity to travel on an airplane!  This trip has provided me with an insight into healthcare in Northern Ireland and a unique opportunity to exchange knowledge and skills between health professionals in the Trust.

“It was such a privilege to have this opportunity to visit, I will definitely be back!”

Trust Chairman, Jonathan Patton highlighted the importance of supporting Kiwoko Hospital and added, “Kiwoko Hospital is extremely important to me personally and to the Trust.  The connection with a developing country puts into context some of the issues we struggle with here in Northern Ireland, compared to Uganda.  The Trust can make a difference through raising funds for Kiwoko Hospital to purchase important medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.  We also have the expertise and knowledge through our healthcare staff who can provide support along with a team of staff who can develop resources within the hospital.  We are taking the expertise from health and social care in Northern Ireland and delivering this into the heart of Uganda.

“I am so proud of our connection with Kiwoko Hospital.  It has served the community for such a long time.  We have a long established relationship within the South Eastern Trust and with prior legacy Trusts.  Key staff within the Trust have kept the link alive over the years ensuring it goes from strength to strength.”

Consultant Endocrinologist, Dr Roy Harper is one of many staff members involved with Kiwoko Hospital.  He explained, “Some years ago I was made aware that the Trust had formed a partnership with Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda. Initially, I helped with some fundraising and then had the opportunity to go out to visit.  When I first arrived, I fell in love with the place and I have been out many times since.

“It is wonderful the Trust has formed this partnership. The staff and patients of Kiwoko Hospital appreciate all the help and support and are so grateful for the fundraising, equipment and support.”

Accompanying Frank on a tour of the Ulster Hospital, Director of Nursing, Dr David Robinson commented, “The charity means an exceptional amount to the Trust, it is a relationship built on healthcare professionals who have visited Kiwoko on many occasions and have invested time, energy, care and support.  The impact our contribution makes is significant, it is the relationship, the time spent and knowing we are part of their community that matters most.

“We have been encouraging our staff to support Kiwoko Hospital over the years.  A team of staff will hopefully visit in the Autumn to support and bring with them their knowledge and expertise.  People are at the heart of what we do within the South Eastern Trust.”