RIPPLE Africa Volunteer Blog – No. 87

This blog is written by Isabel Pearce, a Nurse who volunteered with RIPPLE Africa from April to July 2015.

Chintheche Hospital

RIPPLE Africa has been instrumental in refurbishing parts of Chintheche Hospital. Among these are the mortuary, power house, laundry, X-Ray room and the operating theatre suite.

When I arrived in April 2015 the theatre area was totally uninhabitable and full of disused hospital equipment. It was not practical for use and needed doorways filling in, windows and lintels refurbishing and plastering. The building team needed encouraging as every few weeks work slowed down!

The deadline for use was 22nd June as a specialist surgical team was due to arrive from Blantyre. They assess patients and perform fistula repair surgery.

Women in Malawi may get a fistula (tear or hole) as a result of prolonged or traumatic labour. Access to caesarean sections is unreliable. This fistula results in continuous leaking incontinence of faeces or urine from the vagina. These women are often isolated from their communities. Offering surgical repair is life changing for them.

When the team arrived on 22nd June the facilities where ready. There is now a reception area for staff to eat and leave their outdoor shoes and bags. There’s a changing room, scrub area with sinks, toilets and the large theatre room itself.

The team consisted of a specialist surgeon, four nurses and an anaesthetist. Surgery was under spinal anaesthetic. The team brought the sterile packs (instruments, gowns, etc.) and were at the hospital for two weeks.

Conditions were very hot despite an air conditioning unit. I observed the first day of surgery with two operations taking about two hours each. The team undertake the complex cases first to allow the maximum follow up time. At the end of their visit I met Bernard the anaesthetist and he reported that they had operated on a total of 14 women. They were very pleased as they hope for a success rate of 70-80% but all 14 women had had successful repair surgery.

A theatre now means that caesarean sections will be possible at Chintheche hospital rather than women having to travel to Nkhata Bay which is 60km away. The upgrade of the facilities at Chintheche hospital by RIPPLE Africa donors have enabled all this to happen.

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