Dr Ray Towey has been an anaesthetist in Uganda at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu, since 2002.
He previously worked as a consultant anaesthetist at Guys Hospital in London, but has since dedicated his life to the improvement of healthcare for the poor in Africa – for the last 24 years.
Dr Towey’s work in Uganda is supported by a charity called African Mission, which is a UK charity aiming to fight disease and poverty in Africa by supporting educational and medical projects.
St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, Gulu
St Mary’s Hospital Lacor is a not for profit, church-supported general hospital of 476 beds in northern Uganda.
For many years it had a small four-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) near the operating theatre, but this was upgraded to an eight bed unit in 2005.
It is a teaching hospital for anaesthetists, medical students, nurses and laboratory technicians and attached to Gulu University Medical School. Dr Towey also lectures at the attached Anaesthetic Officer Training School.
Situated in a very deprived, post conflict zone, the majority of the patients are the rural poor and can come from remote areas up to 100 miles away from Gulu.
Day to day
African Mission has provided Dr Towey with medical equipment including oxygen concentrators, monitoring equipment, ventilators, laryngoscopes and intravenous catheters. The charity has also provided text books for training and drugs when needed.
Dr Towey’s focus has been on the anaesthesia and intensive care departments, where one of his most pressing needs recently was for a ventilator machine for the intensive care ward. He said: “One of the most valuable and lifesaving capacities of any intensive care unit, whether in Africa or in Europe, is to support the respiration of patients who cannot breathe.
“Sometimes even a few hours of resting the patient on a ventilator may be a lifesaving intervention."
Now he has a Diamedica Helix standalone ventilator, which means a locally trained ICU staff of specialist nurses has the capacity to ventilate three patients at any time.
Dr Towey said: “In short, we all love it and it’s been a major asset to our ICU.
“We have now ventilated many children with it and are very pleased with its performance. The nurses and anaesthetists find it easy to use and it has transformed our care for children needing ventilation.
“It’s a modest cost for such a versatile machine, also capable of ventilating adults.”