"My colleagues not only gave me this opportunity: they always inspired me."
RAMADHAN, TOPISTA, JUSTINE, KATONGOLE, MATOVU AND JORDAN ARE THE FIRST PATIENTS IN ENTEBBE
DESIGNED BY RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP AND STUDIO TAMASSOCIATI, THE CENTRE COMBINES MEDICAL AND ARCHITECTURAL EXCELLENCE ON THE BANKS OF LAKE VICTORIA
EMERGENCY’s Children’s Surgical Hospital in Uganda has begun clinical activities. The first patients, Ramadhan, Topista, Justine, Katongole, Matovu and Jordan, are between 3 and 11 years old, and were hospitalised for a range of medical conditions concerning the genital area, gastrointestinal tract, and supraumbilical hernias.
The new facility was designed pro bono by Renzo Piano, one of the world’s leading architects. After a meeting with Gino Strada, surgeon and founder of EMERGENCY, the two came together to create a state-of-the-art hospital where paediatric surgery meets with architecture of the highest level, and children from across the African continent can be referred for free, high-quality treatment. Situated on the banks of Lake Victoria, almost 4,000 feet (1,200 m) above sea level, EMERGENCY’s Children’s Surgical Hospital opened its doors on Monday 19 April.
The facility, located in Entebbe, has been ready for a year now, but the opening was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first patient finally set foot in the centre on Monday. Ramadhan is almost three years old and needed an operation on his genital area. He was the first of many, many children who will receive surgery here, for birth defects, urological and gynaecological problems, gastrointestinal tract issues, diseases of the bile duct, and cleft lip. At full capacity, the hospital will employ 385 local people, 179 of whom are medical workers. The ratio of local to foreign staff is four to one amongst the surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and technicians, while 95% of non-medics are Ugandan. The hospital will be dedicated to training local staff, who will go on to improve paediatric surgery and medical care in the country.
“Healthcare in Africa should be at the same level as it is in the Global North. This project comes with all the skills, equipment and technologies needed to start high-level surgery in an extraordinary facility. We are all part of the human family. We are ‘equal in dignity and rights’, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says. We have a responsibility to provide exactly the same level of treatment for African children that is expected in richer countries,” says Gino Strada, surgeon and founder of EMERGENCY.
In Uganda, the mortality rate for children under five is 49 for every 1,000 live births, and 30% of those deaths are due to a lack of adequate surgery.
The Entebbe hospital has tripled the number of surgical beds for children in Uganda and will become a referral point for surgery from patients across the continent. It is the second facility in the African Network of Medical Excellence (ANME), after EMERGENCY’s Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery, built in Khartoum, Sudan, in 2007. The network was launched by EMERGENCY and 11 African countries have signed up to it so far, with a view to building a chain of excellent healthcare facilities that will meet specific medical needs continent-wide.
The hospital has 100,000 square feet (9,700 m2) of floor space, three operating theatres, 72 beds – six for intensive care and 16 for sub-intensive care – an observation and stabilisation ward, six clinics, a radiology room, laboratory with a blood bank, CT scanner, pharmacy, administration, auxiliary services, a guesthouse for patients from afar, reception, medical training rooms, and an outdoor play area.
The project was developed pro bono by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, TAMassociati and EMERGENCY’s Building Division.
“Gino asked me to design a ‘scandalously beautiful’ hospital. He uses that phrase because to some people, the idea of offering beauty and excellence to everyone, especially poor and marginalised people, is scandalous. In Swahili, the concept of beauty is linked to goodness. There is no beauty without goodness,” says Renzo Piano.
The hospital’s walls are made of rammed earth, following a traditional building method that provides thermal inertia, keeping temperature and humidity constant inside the hospital. Particular care has gone into ensuring environmental sustainability, with approximately 2,500 solar panels covering one-third of the centre’s energy needs.
“The country is not short of medical facilities or even a culture of medicine. What it needs is international collaboration, to provide continuous secondary and tertiary medical care to more of its people and to train specialists. The choice we made for the hospital was to create a referral point in Uganda for paediatric elective surgery, both general and specialist, so we could arrange transfers of little patients from around the country and abroad,” adds Rossella Miccio, president of EMERGENCY.
“The opening of the hospital is a major milestone for the children of Uganda and the region at large. The facility will offer high-quality free paediatric surgeries for children in Uganda and across the region. This is part of a deliberate effort by government to strengthen the healthcare system, reduce medical referrals abroad and improve health service delivery for our children. This facility will also be a landmark for Uganda as a referral destination for paediatric surgeries and training centre for our critical workforce. I would like to appreciate EMERGENCY and all our partners that have made this hospital a reality”, says Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, Minister of Health.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health took part in the project’s development, shaping its collaboration with the existing Ugandan healthcare and education systems, providing the land on which it was built and paying 20% of the running costs, as outlined in the African Network of Medical Excellence’s founding aims.
EMERGENCY would particularly like to thank the following for believing in this project: Fondazione Prosolidar, Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RBPW), Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Fondazione Ravasi Garzanti.
The hospital was built with support from the following:
Partners: Agatos, AGC, AlessioTubi, Castelli Food, Duferco Travi e Profilati, Enel Greenpower, Simona e Franco Giorgetta – Architetti paesaggisti, Ingretech, J&A Consultants, KSB, MAEG, Mapei, Milani, Milan Ingegneria, Pellini industrie, Performance in Lighting, Perin generators, Prisma Engineering, Termo Idraulica srl, Resstende, Safic Alcan, Santerno, Schneider Electric, Shüco, TAMassociati, Tecnotubi, Theatro, Thema, Zinchitalia, 8 x 1000 by Chiesa Valdese.
Supporters: Alubel, Atlas Concorde, B Braun, Cool Head Europe, Doka, Favero Health Projects, FIAMM, GAE Engineering, Giugliano Costruzioni Metalliche, Riello UPS, Valsir, Velux, Zintek.
Friends: Banor, Bartlett Foundation, Casalgrande Padana, Fondazione Promozione Acciaio, Fumagalli, Gima, GSA, Kiloutou Cofiloc, Leister, Maspero Elevatori, MPL Feralpi Group, Polyglass, PPG Industries, Tecnaria, Zanutta.
EMERGENCY is an independent, neutral organisation, founded in 1994 to offer free, high-quality medical and surgical treatment to victims of war, landmines and poverty. Since then EMERGENCY has treated over 11 million people: one every minute. EMERGENCY promotes a culture of peace, solidarity and respect for human rights.
EMERGENCY press office
 Butler EK, Tran TM, Fuller AT, Brammell A, Vissoci JR, de Andrade L, Makumbi F, Luboga S, Muhumuza C, Ssennono VF, Chipman JG, Galukande M, Haglund MM, Smith ER, ‘Quantifying the paediatric surgical need in Uganda: results of a nationwide cross-sectional, household survey’, Pediatr. Surg. Int., 2016 Nov; 32(11):1075-1085. Available online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00383-016-3957-3.