October 2021: Ugandan clinicians attend to post-operative patients in a recovery tent.

In the middle of the pandemic environment, both 2020 and 2021 have been years of continuous improvement and growth for Bulamu’s surgery programs. In 2020, Bulamu’s teams of licensed Ugandan surgeons, anesthetists, and support staff treated a total of 2,604 surgery patients – more than 1,000 more surgery patients than they had treated in 2019!

2021 has turned out to be even better for Bulamu’s surgery programs and for our patients in turn. In June, we started a long-term partnership with the Association of Surgeons of Uganda (ASOU) to conduct surgery programs jointly. This program has now been operational for 6 months, resulting in more than 1,000 patients treated in partnership with ASOU surgeons since it began.

ASOU and Bulamu’s capacities have proven to be a perfect fit, with the Association of Surgeons of Uganda representing the leading academic and general surgeons in the country, while Bulamu brings years of experience organizing surgery programs, staffing and managing their logistics, and the baseline funding that both teams need to conduct at least 8 weeks of surgery programs each year. Together, it is a powerful partnership to improve surgical access and care for the poor. This may be a unique partnership within sub-Saharan Africa and it is one that we hope to share as a model.

Most importantly, this has now led Bulamu to pass 4,000 total surgery patients in 2021! We reached this milestone through multiple surgery programs throughout the year, as well as our Angel program for referral patients and the Essential Surgical Supplies program that ensures community hospitals do not run out of the supplies they need to do C-sections:

A waiting area for Bulamu’s surgery program in October 2021, at Budaka Health Center IV.

While Uganda’s public hospitals and clinics generally provide free primary care, fees are charged for most surgeries that the rural poor simply cannot afford. To address this backlog of untreated patients, Bulamu holds a Surgery Intensive (SI) shortly after the conclusion of each Clinical Support Team’s 8-week placement. We bring in a 50-person surgery team to one of the district’s community hospitals, set up multiple operating rooms, and treat approximately 250-300 surgery patients over a 5-day period. Many of these patients with chronic conditions such as hernias and fibroids have gone untreated for years.

So far in 2021, we have treated or supported a total of 4,031 surgery patients at no charge to them, improving their lives in extraordinary ways. Through November, our 7 weeklong Surgery Intensives treated a total of 1,819 patients. Bulamu’s Angel program has referred 16 patients so far, while the Clinical Support Teams provided 502 total surgeries, including 455 C-sections, to patients throughout the year. Finally, through Bulamu’s Essential Surgical Supplies program, 1,694 patients have now received surgeries so far in 2021, many of whom would otherwise have been turned away.

Thanks to Bulamu’s dedicated surgery teams and our extraordinary partners in ASOU, Uganda’s Ministry of Health and local district governments, and Rotarians in multiple countries, we are now making a greater measurable difference to surgical care for the poor than ever before. Patient feedback on their outcomes post-surgery has also been highly positive and will be the subject of a future post. With more than 4,000 patients treated so far in 2021, we are grateful to all of our partners and are confident that the best is yet to come.

One happy patient: Wilderd is back to playing with his dog after having a complex infection treated through Bulamu’s Angel Program.