THE BLOG
04/02/2015 12:05 GMT | Updated 06/04/2015 06:59 BST

'Operation Health' Has Given Me Hope Again

Working at a clinic in rural Uganda, I am faced with the daily challenge of overstretched staff, a lack of resources and not enough hours in the day. I imagine every health worker in the UK would probably say the same.

In the clinic I run however, the building is on the verge of collapse. We have no power or running water, the bat-infested ceiling could cave in at any moment and rats have taken up residence in our medical supplies room.

When I was first posted here to Iyolwa which is near the border with Kenya, two years ago, I could barely believe my eyes. There were massive holes in the ceiling, the roof leaked, the windows were smashed and the smell was suffocating. It looked like an abandoned building. I am not ashamed to admit that I felt like turning around and walking out. On speaking to the staff I heard tale after tale of unhygienic conditions, lack of equipment, rodent infestations and damp. Wasps were attacking the patients, the midwife was delivering babies in the dark and the lab technician did not have a lab.

I wanted to practice medicine to help the hopeless, but working in Iyolwa often made me feel like the hopeless one.

I stayed put because I thought I could make a difference - but it has been an uphill battle.

Gradually I have earned the trust of the local community and more people than ever are using the clinic, but my staff are limited in their jobs by their physical surroundings. It's not uncommon for patients to leave when our backs are turned. They pretend to be feeling better so they don't have to be admitted and spend the night here, even if leaving means putting their health in danger.

Simply put - the clinic is not fit for humans. We have rats on the floor, bats in the ceiling and nowhere near enough space for the 1,400 patients that seek our help each month.

Consultations on the floor or in the corridor are common practice and with no space to exercise quarantine controls, the risk of cross-contamination amongst patients is high. Privacy is a luxury never afforded to patients in Iyolwa.

But suddenly out of nowhere, we have been given hope. The chance to change our future has arrived in the shape of the British pound and Comic Relief.

Living in a remote corner of Eastern Uganda, I'd never heard of Red Nose Day or Comic Relief and I certainly couldn't have predicted the arrival of Lenny Henry in Iyolwa. But since the 'funny man from the UK' came to visit, the clinic is buzzing with the prospect of a modern, new health facility that can finally deliver safe services to a community desperately in need.

'Operation Health for Comic Relief' has given me hope again. To think that people in the UK are prepared to donate money to help us refurbish Iyolwa Clinic is both gratifying and humbling.

The local community has the drive and determination to turn this clinic around. Local teachers have volunteered to work as builders during the school holidays, students are eager to put their technical skills to good use and the whole community is asking what they can do to help.

All we needed was a helping hand to get started.

Ugandans will be hard at work bringing power and water to the clinic for the first time. Women will no longer have to give birth by the light of a mobile phone and sick people can visit the clinic without fear that the roof will cave in on them.

This Red Nose Day I would like to extend a hand of thanks to everyone who has given us this chance to start helping ourselves. I hope our clinic can act as a symbol of the wider healthcare issues facing thousands of communities across Africa.