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Safe anaesthesia and respiratory solutions for limited resource settings

Guest blog

Transforming Child Care

Publication date: 27 Oct 2017

Diamedica is lucky enough to work with some remarkable medical professionals around the world. It’s why we wanted to highlight the work of Dr Ray Towey in our Guest Blog spot this month.

Transforming Child Care

 

Dr Ray Towey has been an anaesthetist in Uganda at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu, since 2002.

He previously worked as a consultant anaesthetist at Guys Hospital in London, but has since dedicated his life to the improvement of healthcare for the poor in Africa – for the last 24 years.

Dr Towey’s work in Uganda is supported by a charity called African Mission, which is a UK charity aiming to fight disease and poverty in Africa by supporting educational and medical projects.

 

Transforming Child Care

St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu

Context

St Mary’s Hospital Lacor is a not for profit, church-supported general hospital of 476 beds in northern Uganda.

For many years it had a small four-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) near the operating theatre, but this was upgraded to an eight bed unit in 2005.

It is a teaching hospital for anaesthetists, medical students, nurses and laboratory technicians and attached to Gulu University Medical School. Dr Towey also lectures at the attached Anaesthetic Officer Training School.

Situated in a very deprived, post conflict zone, the majority of the patients are the rural poor and can come from remote areas up to 100 miles away from Gulu. 

Day to day

African Mission has provided Dr Towey with medical equipment including oxygen concentrators, monitoring equipment, ventilators, laryngoscopes and intravenous catheters. The charity has also provided text books for training and drugs when needed.

Dr Towey’s focus has been on the anaesthesia and intensive care departments, where one of his most pressing needs recently was for a ventilator machine for the intensive care ward. He said: “One of the most valuable and lifesaving capacities of any intensive care unit, whether in Africa or in Europe, is to support the respiration of patients who cannot breathe.

“Sometimes even a few hours of resting the patient on a ventilator may be a lifesaving intervention."

Now he has a Diamedica Helix standalone ventilator, which means a locally trained ICU staff of specialist nurses has the capacity to ventilate three patients at any time.

Dr Towey said: “In short, we all love it and it’s been a major asset to our ICU.

“We have now ventilated many children with it and are very pleased with its performance. The nurses and anaesthetists find it easy to use and it has transformed our care for children needing ventilation.

“It’s a modest cost for such a versatile machine, also capable of ventilating adults.”

 

Transforming Child Care
Dr Ray Towey and Diamedica's director Robert Neighbour with the Helix Ventilator
 
Other lifesaving assets
 
Prior to the arrival of the ventilator, Dr Towey took receipt of Diamedica’s Glostavent  anaesthetic machine.
 
This is especially designed to give anaesthesia in remote and challenging environments, as can often be the case in rural sub-Saharan Africa. 
 
Dr Towey said: “Electricity cannot be relied upon and oxygen cylinders which have to be collected from the nearest large town are always in short supply – and the nearest large town may be hundreds of miles away on roads often in a very poor condition. 
 
"In St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu, we have six operating theatres which carry out over 5,000 operations a year. Two of our theatres are lacking modern anaesthetic machines such as the Glostavent." 
 
Transforming Child Care
Dr Ray Towey

Aiming to meet future surgical needs
 
Looking ahead, Dr Towey was clear more needed to be done: “Our hope is to provide a Glostavent Helix in each of the two remaining theatres. The Glostavent incorporates an oxygen concentrator so each machine produces its own supply of oxygen, and if the electricity fails the anaesthetist can support the patient’s respiration by manually compressing a bag.”
 
It is certainly encouraging to learn of such progress and the commitment to continued progress from medical professionals like Dr Towey. 
 
He said: “The unmet surgical needs of Africa are enormous and a machine such as the Glostavent provides anaesthetic capacity to support the surgeons doing their best to meet the surgical workload of northern Uganda.”
 
African Mission is presently supporting four initiatives. Dr Ray Towey's work in Uganda plus three other projects in Zimbabwe. 
 
To learn more and to support this incredible work, visit African Mission here.
 
Follow African Mission on Facebook by clicking here
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