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UGANDA: Australian couple runs a Fort Portal hospital remotely

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PHOTO: A toddler at the Maranatha Hospital in Uganda. (ABC News: Sarah Mullins)

Adelaide couple continues running Ugandan hospital even after moving home with family

By Sarah Mullins, abc.net.au

A South Australian couple is delivering crucial health services to thousands of Ugandans each year by running a hospital from a home office in Adelaide.

Key points:
Michael and Kim Findlay set up a hospital in Uganda in 2011
They have returned home to Adelaide now that their children are going to school
They are continuing to run the crucial health service from their home office

A shared passion for Africa resulted in GP Michael Findlay and his now-wife Kim being set up on a blind date in 2007.

They were married in 2009, and just two years later moved to Uganda to build a hospital and create the legacy that would become Maranatha Health.

“We started Maranatha because we really believe no matter where you are in the world you should be able to access quality healthcare,” Ms Findlay said.

“There are so many children in the world and so many in Uganda where that is not the case, and that’s just not okay with us.”
A struggling healthcare system

Based in Fort Portal in Uganda’s west, Maranatha Health admits more than 10,000 patients each year and is completely funded by Australian donations.

In this part of Uganda, and in many parts of the east African country, basic healthcare is a luxury.

PHOTO: The hospital treats both children and adults. (ABC News: Sarah Mullins)

Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the word, with about 50 per cent of people under 15 years old.

Maranatha Health provides a wide range of healthcare to children and adults who might otherwise go without.

Dr Findlay said Uganda only had one referral hospital that provided highly specialised care for the country’s 42 million people.

“It is an incredibly difficult system for people and what that means is that often people just take their chances and see what happens,” he said.

“In Adelaide we have this wonderful new hospital which cost $2 billion to $3 billion to build and the running cost every year is astronomical because health is really expensive.

“We manage to see more than 10,000 patients a year for about $200,000, which is pretty remarkable.”

PHOTO: Michael and Kim Findlay with their three sons in Uganda. (Supplied: Findlay family)

Running a hospital from Adelaide

The couple spent seven years running the hospital while living in Uganda and starting a family.

The family of five has now returned to Adelaide to let the three boys attend school in Australia.

Every week, the couple put in several days of work from home to keep Maranatha running on the opposite side of the world.

Forty local staff work at the hospital, including Maureen Rwaheeru, who said the community was very grateful for the couple’s ongoing work.

“Even when they are gone, they have not left us alone — we always consult with them and … make decisions accordingly,” Ms Rwaheeru said.

“Since 2011 when we started, we have saved so many lives, both children and adults.

“The clinic is very small but what impresses us is the trust that these patients have in Maranatha.”

PHOTO: Daniel Mukidi and Oliver Kabahweza with their grandchildren. (ABC News: Sarah Mullins)

Education is a part of the mission

Staff at Maranatha Health treat malnourished children on a daily basis.

Poverty and a lack of education in Uganda are contributing factors which can cause children to die from malnutrition.

The hospital has developed a community nutrition program to help educate families on how to grow and harvest food.

The Kabahweza family, who live in remote western Uganda, have benefited from the program after one of their eight children was admitted to Maranatha with malnutrition.

Maranatha Health helped the Kabahwezas to build a now-thriving vegetable garden, enabling the family to live off their land.

The children’s grandmother, Oliver Kabahweza, said she was very grateful.

“I am so thankful to Maranatha, because whenever the children are sick I bring them to Maranatha [and] they are treated freely and are given food,” she said.

“When I am there taking care of them I am not hungry.”

PHOTO: Staff at the hospital in Uganda. (Supplied)

New plans for a bigger hospital

The Findlay family is now working towards a new goal — to build a new hospital at a much bigger site in order to care for a larger number of patients in the region.

Land was acquired in October and they hope construction work will begin in 2020 once funding is secured.

“Currently we are in a rental facility — it is really less than ideal; we are packed full, we have a 30-bed clinic,” she said.

“We see 10,000 patients a year and we have to turn away others because there just isn’t room and we don’t want to do that anywhere.”

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: June 01, 2019 at 09:24AM

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