Better Health

November 22 2021 | by

IN THE DISTRICT of Gakenke, Rwanda, the reality of the economic and social-health situation is that people with disabilities are left either to their own devices or to family members who try, but fail, to fill the gap in skills and resources. There is a general lack of rehabilitation services in the area, and action was needed to address this deficit and social disadvantage.

There are two hospitals in the district: Ruli District Hospital and, situated 30 kilometres away, Nemba Hospital. These hospitals, together with 21 health centres and 17 dispensaries make up the core of the health service in Gakenke District. The average walking time between health centres is just short of an hour, but most of the population, some 97 percent of the inhabitants, live in the 191 rural villages scattered across the district. As a consequence, 51 percent of the population need to walk for more than an hour to reach their nearest centre.


Reference point


Ruli Hospital, together with the nine health centres it oversees, covers approximately 125,000 people and has a capacity of 250 patients. It comes under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Kigali, which was established in 1976. As well as offering the usual hospital departments – internal medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, paediatrics, maternity, social services, etc. – it also periodically organises vaccination and prophylaxis campaigns to the 191 villages, together with training on health awareness, sanitation, and prevention and treatment of childhood malnutrition. The hospital has, over the years, become a reference point for the local community.

The physiotherapy department at the hospital works closely with the general surgery, internal medicine, paediatrics, neonatology, and maternity departments to provide rehabilitation to maximise patient function. Situated on the ground floor, the department was small, consisting of an office to register and welcome patients, and two small physiotherapy rooms for treatment. The rooms themselves were too small for the necessary machinery and equipment to treat patients, and the environment itself was not accessible to many patients due to the level of humidity and damp on internal and external surfaces. It was time for things to change.


Up-to-date equipment


A project was drawn up by the diocese to modernise the physiotherapy department and provide it with up-to-date equipment. This would not only strengthen the hospital’s capacity to respond to requests for medical-rehabilitation services, but would “also promote a healthier lifestyle and maximise the autonomy of people with disabilities,” says Sr. Catherine Ahou N’guessan of the Dominican Sisters of the Anunciata, and Social Services Manager at the hospital. “It would also reduce the tendency to have a sedentary lifestyle with a view to preventing other diseases and discomforts. And would give the sick and disabled person greater awareness of their psycho-physical abilities, increase their self-esteem, and create greater integration.”

The total cost of the proposed project was €33,100 – around €10,000 for restructuring, and €23,100 for equipment.  After local contributions of €950 were taken into consideration, a grant of €31,150 was approved by St. Anthony’s Charities.


Three phases


Work on the first phase – renovating the physiotherapy department – started on January 25, 2021. Before ordering the wall tiles, samples were soaked in water for 24 hours to ensure their quality and water resistance. The work spread over four weeks during which walls were restructured and replastered before affixing the new tiles. “Unloading of the tiles was a little late due to COVID-19 restrictions,” explains Sr. Catherine, but this didn’t prevent completion of the works on time. In the fourth week, the ceilings were also painted.

The next two phases of the project were delivery and installation of equipment to the department. “After a one-month ordering period, we took delivery on April 17,” says Sr. Catherine. The first delivery included axillary and elbow crutches, shoes for physio activities, a blood pressure machine, anterior and posterior walkers for children, cuff weights, a static children’s cycle, gait belts, and both office and patient chairs. The final phase saw the purchase and delivery of further equipment including scales, a TENS machine, ultrasound machine, a treadmill, ice packs, wall bar, balance board, rehabilitation steps, and pillows. Everything was delivered and installed by the end of May 2021.

It is estimated that the services now offered by the improved physiotherapy department will benefit around 5,500 patients each year, not to mention a reduction in the need for the families of the sick and disabled to provide help at home. The future upkeep and maintenance of the department will continue to be financed through fees – only a small contribution will be required from the socio-economically disadvantaged – and is guaranteed by the Diocese of Kigali, the Dominican Sisters of the Anunciata, and by private benefactors.


Sincere gratitude


“I would like to thank you for the funds received which have allowed us to equip the physiotherapy department to meet the needs of clients from the area and those who come from the neighbouring hospital,” says Jean de Dieu Niringiyimana, a physiotherapist from the hospital. “There is one big change between the current service and how it was before. Having the best quality equipment our physiotherapy service has not only become a quality reference for other hospitals, but it is also able to accommodate several patients simultaneously. The healing rate is now faster.” Jean de Dieu continues by thanking the operational manager for his spirit of innovation and seriousness in his work, and then adds, “I’m really happy and motivated to work in our new well-equipped service environment and gain great satisfaction from healing clients and improving their quality of life in the community.”

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony for your financial support and collaboration,” concludes Sr. Catherine. “God bless you forever.”

Updated on October 25 2021