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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
GP aims to bring NHS care to Africa
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Treatment in Mbale
UK medics are donating cash monthly to boost provisions
The town Mbale, in Uganda, has three-quarters of a million inhabitants but only four GPs.

Many residents have no access to basic medical care and infant and child mortality rates are high - around 150 deaths per 1,000 children under the age of five.

Now a group of GPs and hospital doctors from Pontypridd, in south Wales, are hoping they can help redress the balance.

As well as giving up their spare time to fly to Uganda to help train the local residents in disease prevention and diagnosis, 15 of them are donating 40 a month to fund local schemes.

Aid

Pontypridd Overseas Networking Trust (PONT) co-founder GP Dr Geoff Lloyd has visited Mbale five times.

He is hoping to persuade even more of his colleagues to donate a week of their holidays to help out their twin-town and be able to add the letters BTA (Been To Africa) after their qualifications.

Dr Lloyd worked abroad after completing his medical training, but said that when he became established in general practice he still felt the need to do something to help the developing world.

When the families are provided with mosquito nets they will register like they do in British health centre
Dr Geoff Lloyd

Aware that his practice kept him mainly in the UK, he wanted to set up something that would do more than just send financial aid, and would utilise his skills as a medic.

So, with a group of like minded doctors, he searched for somewhere where they could be best used.

He said they wanted to twin with somewhere where English was widely understood, and which was not too dangerous for the medics to visit.

It also had to be somewhere that would welcome NGO (non-governmental organisation) help and - most importantly - where there was great need.

They narrowed it down to Uganda and decided to twin with its third largest town Mbale, which is just three hours drive from the capital Kampala and set in the foothills of Mount Elgon in the east of the country.

Last summer the town was officially twinned with its Welsh counterpart, with local churches, schools and engineers making it a whole town effort.

Poverty

The average income in Mbale is just 3 a week and, although the land is fertile, the majority of residents are poor subsistence farmers. They have no primary care system and few medical facilities.

But, although there was a lot of scope to help them, Dr Lloyd said it was vital he and his colleagues were not seen as patronising.

"When we British help out, we often end up running the show and telling people how it should be done and running it along British lines, providing services for the select few."

He said they provide courses in all aspects of health care for volunteer groups of locals, enabling them to provide care for fellow residents where necessary.

Children in Mbale
Infant mortality rates are high
Dr Lloyd said that by teaching them how to provide their own medical care, they were setting up a system for the future and each community would have their own "Volunteer Village Health Workers" who would be able to advise not only on preventing sickness, but which medicines to take when they did become ill.

Dr Lloyd said one of the biggest killers, particularly among children, was malaria.

They aim to cut this by providing mosquito nets for the under-fives and pregnant women.

When we British help out we often end up running the show and telling people how it should be done and running it along British lines, providing services for the select few
Dr Geoff Lloyd

Providing the nets would also enable them to make contact with vulnerable families and try and help set up a primary care system.

"When the families are provided with mosquito nets they will register like they do in British health centre. They won't be registering as individuals, but as families.

"Each time they need treatment their files can be added to and this will help build clinical records."

Families enrolling will also get access to malaria tablets and basic medication.

He said that providing this basic facility would help give the patients some continuity of care.

Equipment

Pont also hopes to set up close links with the hospitals in Pontypridd and Mbale, providing up-to-date equipment where possible.

The local hospital is overcrowded. One children's ward has just 20 beds and basic treatment established to treat end-stage malaria and at peak times the ward can have up to 120 children a time - six to a bed.

It is hoped the mosquito net scheme can reduce the number of children needing to be admitted to this ward.

Mosquito nets
Mosquito nets are donated to reduce malaria

PONT also plans to assist orphans and vulnerable children, ensuring they have someone to care for them, by donating a goat to families who take them in.

They hope that by using a whole town approach they can provide a whole new way of delivering care.

"What we are hoping it that this becomes a pilot scheme. A new way of donating aid. We hope that by providing lots of different channels people will become interested and travel out to Africa," Dr Lloyd explained.


SEE ALSO
Uganda urged to release condoms
02 Sep 05 |  Africa
Uganda 'mismanaging' Aids money
24 Aug 05 |  Africa
Uganda turns back the Aids tide
02 Dec 03 |  Africa
African and Welsh towns twin up
06 Jul 05 |  South East Wales

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