Returning to Katete
James & Faith Cairns
former medical director and administrator, 1958 - 1996
Our son Christopher who farms in the Southern Province at Kalomo very kindly lent us his only really reliable car, a 1994 Volvo, to visit Lusaka and Katete.
We were amazed by the standard of the road from Kalomo to Lusaka, rebuilt between 2002 and 2004 and is comparable with the major roads in Britain and South Africa. From Lusaka to Nyimba it was almost as good and very acceptable: from there to Katete nearly all the potholes had been filled in.
At the hospital we were welcomed by Shelagh and Ian Parkinson in their new four-bedroom house (facing the Katete hills), where three of their children, Amy, Jack and Kate at school at Chengelo, Mkushi, had just arrived on holiday. Jim and Chiko were as active as ever and Joshua was expected soon. Despite all the demands on Shelagh as Paediatrician and Executive Director and with her pregnancy, she coped in her usual friendly way. Ian shoulders much of the non-medical administration, including maintenance and the building programme. He was delighted that Tracy Adams, VSO Accountant had arrived a few weeks before, relieving him of the extra responsibility of trying to supervise that department. Rogers Mwanza, Assistant Accountant is half way through his training in Lusaka to become a Certified Accountant, but was at home so we had the chance to have a good talk with him. Also Abraham Phiri, who also has quadraparesis. He is now Secretary to the Jersey School and in charge of the Sunday School. Both live in ‘Jersey’ houses purpose built for wheelchair life.
We met many old friends still working at the hospital including – Cyprian Menyani and Bernard Banda of the Eye Dept, Peter Chanda i/c Theatres, Grace Habile Ngwenya Maternity, Rodwell Banda, Senior CO/Anaesthetist, Raphael Banda, Medical Laboratory Technician and Danwell Simbeya, Co-ordinator of the HIV/AIDS Department.
Both James Manda and Charles Chupa, now Senior Zambia Enrolled Nurses had moved to take charge of Health Centres in the District. Amongst those who have retired, Asman Manda, now about 70 years previously senior Carpenter and living near the hospital, came to see us. We visited Philemon Chupa, Laboratory Technician 73, and his wife Catherine at their small house which has a well nearby, about 1 km towards the Stores. Sadly he has developed Alzheimer’s but the family with three daughters at home are managing well.
We were impressed with how the hospital is coping with the continuing needs of the people of Katete District and the many patients transferred from other parts of the Eastern Province, especially those needing help in gynaecology and surgery. Ziche Makukula MRCOG has led the busy department of Obs. and Gynae. for nine years. Intermittently registrars from Lusaka are training under him. The Surgical department is led by recently retired surgeons from The Netherlands, since Yotam Phiri, M Med. Surgery, left to become Provincial Director in the North West Province. He is hoping to return to St Francis soon. Surgical Registrars from the Medical School in Lusaka, undergoing training for six months during their 4-year programme, are present most of the time.
Visits by Prof. John Jellis (Orthopaedics) and Dr Goran Jovic (Plastic Surgery) are valued greatly. The recent return of Dr Chisi after training as an ophthalmologist is very important for that field.
Rehabilitation of the medical wards (St Augustine and St Monica) became vital, so the patients were moved to York ward. (TB patients are treated as out patients soon after diagnosis.) The roof was taken off the medical wards and the verandas partially closed. The plans retaining most of the Nightingale format look exciting. The roof is now on again and the original walls have been strengthened. Funds came from the Dutch Medical Support Group.
Money continues to be very short because of the low level of support from the government (now about one third comes from that source). Sadly the agreement that the Ministry of Health pay the Classified Employees (the non-health staff) has still not been implemented, because of the ceiling for salaries imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Maybe Zambia reaching ‘completion point’ under IMF rules recently will change this.
Clinical Officer trainees are posted to the hospital for experience. Medical Licentiates, who undergo a further two years training programme after becoming Clinical Officers, come in fair numbers for their year’s internship. Hopefully they will be the backbone of the health service in the smaller rural hospitals.
Important advances are the issue in significant quantity of free basic drugs to hospital and health centres by the Government Medical Stores, including those run by the churches. This and the availability of cheaper anti-retro-viral drugs (ARVs) are a source of joy to patients and staff. St Francis Hospital is viable because of the presence of Shelagh and Ian Parkinson, Ziche Makukula and several other long-term key staff members. The hospital is deeply grateful to those who support the work especially Britain and The Netherlands.