A new Link is born….between Winchester and Yei

Author(s): Denise Yelverton

On 7th November 2010 a group of clinicians set off from the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester, UK on a fact-finding visit to Yei in Southern Sudan. The purpose of this visit was to review healthcare there, specifically secondary care at Yei Civil Hospital, and to assess whether a ‘Link’ between Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust (WEHCT) and Yei Civil Hospital would be mutually beneficial.

From the outset, Poppy and John Spens from the Martha Primary Health Care Centre in Yei liaised extensively with hospital staff and as a result of this WEHCT was directly invited by senior doctors to visit.  The aim was to identify areas of healthcare in Yei where WEHCT may be able to help in the future and to build links with the local community. Initial thoughts were that the main focus should be on areas of greatest need, namely maternity and paediatrics. However, we would be guided by the wishes of local clinicians.

The team for this first visit to Yei consisted of senior midwife Nancy MacKeith, microbiologist Kordo Saeed, anaesthetist Gary Dickinson and paediatrician Simon Struthers. In Yei the team met the Minister of Health for Central Equatoria, Dr Emmanuel Ija Baya, the Minister for Social Development for Central Equatoria, Miss Helen Murshali and the two local Doctors, Dr James and Dr Simbe. Throughout the trip the team was welcomed by members of the local government, religious and community leaders, local health professionals and hospital staff, all of whom made it abundantly clear that the project had their full support.

The team spent most of their time in Yei studying every aspect of the hospital including the facilities, equipment, structure, site and general care. They talked with staff of all types and, because they stayed in hospital accommodation, they also chatted informally with staff based in the area.

Results of the trip

The main problems discovered were:

  • morale

  • motivation

  • resource – staffing, drugs, equipment (mainly diagnostics such as working ultrasound machines or laboratory incubators), facilities, basic hospital infrastructure (e.g. availability of water and hand washing facilities)

  • lack of specific expertise

  • lack of training structure and continuous professional development of the current staff.

The focus of this first visit was not to look at general health needs of a population or where funds could be allocated. Its purpose was to allow professionals from one hospital to review how this hospital might help and be helped by another.

 Since returning to UK, the Winchester-based members of the Link have liaised extensively with colleagues in Yei and with interested parties in the UK, including two other local hospital trusts in Poole and the Isle of Wight. Both of these have established Links with hospitals in Wau and Juba, respectively. All three NHS organisations agree that opportunities exist, especially around training and development, to collaborate on joint initiatives with our partners in South Sudan and this is something we will be working towards in the near future.

In addition, useful discussions about the Winchester-Yei Link and the idea of joint working with other local Links and their partners were held with the Minister of Health for Southern Sudan, Dr Luka Tombekana Monoja, during his visit to UK in December. We are now working with staff at the hospital in Yei to determine priorities for future activities. In the meantime, we have provided a new maternity bed - the first of a number of small projects that we hope to undertake before the next visit to Yei, planned for this September.

Contributed by Denise Yelverton ([email protected])