The first RCOG/Marcus Filshie Fellow is travelling to Uganda today to start an eight week placement to help support the delivery of obstetric and gynaecological services and to start researching how the hospital can develop into a permanent fistula service provider.
The new volunteering fellowship is in partnership with and through the generous donation of Mr Marcus Filshie FRCOG.
The placement will take place at Kitovu hospital, within the Masaka district (population of nearly 249,200 people); within Uganda, (population of 34 million, 89% of which live in rural areas).
Currently the fistula service comprises 4 camps per year of two weeks duration each, staffed by experienced overseas surgeons (including fellows and members of the RCOG), repairing 60-80 fistulae per camp. The RCOG is currently undertaking a needs assessment and service planning to investigate whether this could be supported to become a continuous year round fistula service.
Sandra McNeill, a consultant in O&G from Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry, Northern Ireland will be visiting Kitovu, to back-fill for a Ugandan obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Florence Nalubega, who, through support from FIGO, will be leaving Kitovu to train in fistula surgery for eight weeks at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia.
Sandra will work alongside local healthcare staff and help support the development of local staff and capacity at Kitovu.
We met Sandra to find out more:
What is your background?
I am a consultant in O&G in Derry. I work in a district teaching hospital with 2900 deliveries every year. I am also Deputy Head of School and Training Programme Director for O&G within the NI Deanery. I am an educational supervisor for F2 foundation training within my trust. My special interest is urogynaecology and medical education.
I am 49, married to an Anaesthetist and have three teenage daughters. In my spare time I enjoy sailing with my husband.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I had thought about working overseas when my family grew up, and then I saw an advert at the RCOG and thought it was a great opportunity to do a short term placement.
Have you done anything similar before?
I did a medical student elective in India and in outback Australia with the Royal Flying Doctor service – but have never been to Africa. In Australia I did come across a few fistula cases.
What skills do you hope to bring to Kitovu?
I am unsure of what to expect exactly when I get there! However I will bring surgical and obstetric skills and teaching skills. I also have good communication skills and lots of patience.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope that it will be the start of a long term link with Kitovu and the RCOG so that the fistula service can run year round and not have to depend on UK doctors. I hope that following this placement I will have the opportunity to return and provide further help.
What do you think will be the main challenges?
We are so lucky in this UK to have up-to-date medical equipment, available drugs and teams of staff ready to deal with cases. In Uganda, this might not be the case and the challenge will be overcoming and dealing with cases on limited resources.
The Global Health Unit at the RCOG will provide support and mentorship, along with visiting surgeons for fistula camps and maternal health courses. Dr Maura Lynch, a retired surgeon, is the Director at Kitovu, an honorary fellow of the RCOG, and will also provide support for the Fellow.
Find out more about the RCOG/Marcus Filshie Fellowship.