Team 9 arrived tired on Sunday morning to a hot sticky Juba. Customs took a little persuading that we were not there to sell medical equipment rather than train doctors and nurses! Our cause was helped by the arrival of Wani Mena, Consultant Ophthalmologist, and soon we had our 10 massive cases loaded in and on the roof of his Christian Blind Mission (CBM) Land Cruiser.
Checked into Juba Bridge hotel on the banks of the Nile and spent the rest of the day sorting out our mobiles and speaking to local contacts. It transpired that onward travel for the team to Wau had not yet been organised, and I would have company in Juba for longer than originally planned. The day ended with lethal but delicious coffee freshly roasted and ground, served with popcorn and an incense burner. Fortunately the only thing which kept us awake that night was the sound of mangos crashing onto the tin bedroom roofs!
Frankie, Maddy, Kate and Rob were pleased to catch up with Peter Pal in Juba Hospital. He spent 2 months in Poole last year with the link learning ultrasound, and clearly had benefitted greatly from this experience. He took the team on a tour of the hospital and new nursing school. The first intake have almost finished their training, but are lacking in ward and clinical experience.
The team also had useful conversations with the Minister and Gabriel Loi at the Ministry of Health regarding long term strategy and goals for healthcare provision in South Sudan. Consideration was given as to how links can be used to best effect and the possibility of the ministry providing accommodation to support longer term visits.
I was met by Wani at the hotel and taken on a tour of eye facilities of Juba. We visited an impressive peripheral clinic and small eye theatre which is undergoing renovation. I was delighted to find that the project manager was Father John, a catholic priest accountant. He has moved there from the catholic health training institute in Wau where I met him last year.
A little later I met up with friends in JTH eye unit, John, Helen, Abdullah and others. The outpatients was hectic as usual for the rest of the morning. I saw many patients including babies and children with infections and injuries. The operating lists for the rest of the week are now almost full, with cataracts, trauma repairs and other procedures.
Wani is running CBM funded programmes training cataract surgeons and ophthalmic clinical officers (OCOs). OCOs are previously nurses and medical assistants. Later in the day I gave an hours lecture to a class of about 16 OCOs and trainee cataract surgeons on corneal disease. The projector was a little dim, so the class had to huddle round my mini iPad screen to see some of the images!
I finally presented Wani with some surgical instruments kindly donated by Nick Astbury, Consultant in Norwich Hospital and Vision 2020 chairman of the royal college of ophthalmologists.
Looking forward to a meal by the Nile and an evening meeting with Eluzai Hakim of the St Mary’s IOW link, drinks may be involved!