by Gene Marrano
Roanoke-based Kissito Healthcare International (KHI), which is currently building a hospital in Ethiopia, is also working at another clinic in Uganda – where the quantity of patients seen and the number of surgeries performed can be quite staggering at times. KHI, about five years old, is an offshoot of Kissito Healthcare, which operates eight facilities in the United States, including the Brian Center in Botetourt County.
Roanoker Chris Barth spend several months in Uganda as a volunteer, working on IT issues, and Kissito Project Manager Clarissa Clarke (Barth’s fiancé) will be there for another month or so, according to KHI Development Director Elizabeth Parsons. “Clarissa is really excited to be over there,” said Parsons.
The rural hospital in Bugobero, in eastern Uganda, serves more than 50,000 patients a year. Recently Kissito surgeon Dr. Edward Sabiiti performed 18 surgeries in one day. On his travels to Africa, Kissito CEO Tom Clarke noted that “with just a little bit of money I could make a big impact,” according to Parsons, and thus Kissito International was born.
Clarke made a point to visit rural hospitals and orphanages on a regular basis said Parsons, and soon determined that he wanted to make a permanent impact on the lives of people in places like Ethiopia and Uganda. Parsons has been to Ethiopia several times as the hospital planned there is being constructed.
Sam Rasoul is a development consultant for KHI, and also the CFO for Kissito. The former Roanoke mayoral candidate and one time congressional hopeful said that the non-profit KHI is working to combat disease and malnutrition in underdeveloped countries. “We’re [also] sponsoring research with partners like Harvard,” said Rasoul, “and we’re trying to increase our footprint.”
The cash flow generated by Kissito’s domestic entities means that sponsors can be assured that all of the money donated for international efforts will go toward programs on the ground – a major selling point, said Rasoul. “People are always wondering – where are my dollars going? With our program people are specifically sponsoring a doctor, a nurse, a clinic, a hospital.”
KHI trains people from the countries in Africa they serve (which might include the Sudan in the future) to staff the clinics and hospitals. In Uganda they sent nursing students to the Philippines for training.
“It was very eye-opening,” said Parsons of her time in Ethiopia, which is “filled with wonderful, vibrant people,” that just don’t have much in the way of material possessions.
In Bugobero, Uganda the hospital there is actually a public-private partnership with the Ugandan government – a model that works best, according to Parsons. But the facility “literally was falling apart,” and had not received a drug shipment for six months before Kissito arrived on the scene. The patients seen were few and far between. Now the hospital has seen as many as 483 patients in a single day.
“It’s really amazing – there’s a lot of needs that we’re addressing,” said Parsons, who commends Ugandan health care workers for doing what they can with few supplies. Childbirth is still a hazardous ordeal in Uganda, where 6000 women a year still die while having children. “The things you see over there, you don’t get used to them,” said Parsons.
The laid back and much slower pace of life in Uganda sometimes gets in the way, “but we have to work within that system and culture.”
See www.kissitointernational.org for more information or to make a donation.