AusHeal Blog

AusHEAL Team News – week 5

Long-term AusHEAL Team Members, Dr Murray Thorn and Sue Reid remained at HEAL Africa Hospital (HAH) for a further week following the departure of the September teams.  Radiologist Dr Murray used his last week to instruct not only the surgical COSECSA trainees on the intricacies of CT scans and how to read them, but also similar sessions with all the remaining HAH Medical Staff.

Farewell from Neil & Gwen to Murray and Sue

Even though 2 replacement circuit boards had been brought from Australia for the CT Scanner the CT is still not functioning properly.  Disheartening after an initially successful ‘start-up’ last week.

Currently only Dr Neil & Gwen remain from AusHEAL. They will stay for some weeks yet at HAH.


RECOVERING PATIENT…… One of the ICU patients, Prince, who warmed the hearts of many of our team members, is doing really well.  He is 22 and has no parents or family.  He was stabbed when he went to help separate 2 people in a fight.   From an initially hope-less clinical situation, he has progressed to where he now requires probably just one more week with chest tubes.

OXYGEN PLANT….. Preparation for the installation of the new AusHEAL supplied Oxygen Plant has commenced with clearing a new and more appropriate site ready for laying the cement slab on which the plant will be installed.  At the end of October an Engineer from the supplying company in Perth, Western Australia, will visit to install the plant and ensure good functioning.

DR KIGAYI….. AusHEAL Scholarship recipient, Dr Kigayi, has been visiting HEAL Africa Hospital at the end of his second year of training as a Specialist Anaesthetist.  Neil and Gwen took the opportunity to catch up with him to chat about his studies in Tanzania.  As the only non-Tanzanian in his course, he found it extremely difficult at first studying in English but he indicated that the other Tanzanian trainees were very welcoming and supportive of him.   It will be an added bonus for HAH when he returns as the only medically trained Anaesthetist in what has been historically a department totally staffed by nurse-anaesthetists who perform an amazing work in difficult and challenging circumstances.  We are grateful to AusHEAL donors who help to make these Scholarships possible.

Dr Kigayi with Dr Neil

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT GROUP ….. a representative from our Australian partner, Global Development Group, is conducting a ‘monitoring visit’  this month to HAH to personally see the work of the ‘AusHEAL Congo Project’.


MAMA VIRGINIE is the HAH Public Relations Officer. She has facilitated and organised much of the logistics of AusHEAL visits over the past 11 years. She turned 60 this week and has become a dear friend and such an encouragement to team members.

Mama Gwen with Mama Virginie


 …… ‘Abdominal Catastrophe’ is a term that HAH staff have given to the disastrous surgery we see referred in from peripheral centres and sometimes from other health sites in Goma.  One example was a young 19 yr old mother who’d had supposedly had just a caesarean section in a ‘small clinic’ in Goma – and subsequently presented to HAH with peritonitis.  At the time of the surgery at HAH she was found to have had a hysterectomy – as well as the caesarean.  Thankfully the baby survived.  A day later, another woman arrived after a caesarean-section in a rural area. Unfortuntely her bladder had been sewn to her womb and her abdomen left open!  The baby’s arm had been broken during delivery.  Such horrific cases continue to cause us great stress – but also continue to reinforce why AusHEAL is here to improve training.

…… Paediatric Cases –  the Hospital was visited last week by the UNICEF Director for West and Central Africa, and the UNICEF director for Eastern Congo. The group was given a tour of sections of the hospital relating to children.  They were introduced to a tiny baby born with several congenital abnormalities & recently transferred from the neonatal ward. Due to the extent of malformations, the child’s gender was unidentifiable, with part of the bowel sitting outside the child’s body. Two surgeries were performed by Dr Neil and Dr Luc together in an attempt to give hope for the future.  From the waist up bub is normal and feeding well from the breast.  Such tragic cases are not uncommon in this part of the world.

FANNY, Neil & Gwen’s adopted Congolese daughter continues to follow up patients who have had the same significant major surgery she underwent in 2009.  The photo portrays 10-year old Kitso on her return visit, 18 months after surgery.  Kitso is doing well physically and topping her class at school.  Her family is poor and struggling to meet school fees.  A common predicament for families in Congo. Often only one child in a family has the opportunity to attend school.

Dr Neil, Kitso and Fanny


….. AusHEAL-HATS Training Floor – (HATS = Heal Africa Training Scheme) It is anticipated that with projected funding from Australia, the current Outpatients Building will have a top floor added as part of the HAH building program.  It will provide space for an AusHEAL base and training facility to include a large teaching room, smaller training rooms for small groups, a skills workshop and library, training rooms for small groups etc.  Construction is envisaged in 2018.

….. Women’s & Children’s Pavilion – Demolition of the building mentioned in the previous Newsletter is now complete and the site ready to commence construction.  This building is to accommodate hospital ‘inpatients’.

Site of new building to accommodate hospital inpatients

….. Community Women’s & Children’s Health Centre –  Following a casual conversation last year between Dr Neil and the Brazilian Ambassador to DRC during a visit by the Princess Caroline of Monaco (a Patron of UNICEF) the Ambassador made contact in June this year with Dr Neil, advising that the Princess was keen to arrange building project funding from a Foundation established by her mother (Princess Grace of Monaco).  A project to improve the health of women and children from the community of Goma.

2016 Visit of Princess Caroline of Monaco

2016 Visit of Brazilian Ambassador

Discussions followed and on our arrival (Neil & Gwen) in Goma at the end of August a number of planning meetings were held to prepare an official submission to AMADE MONDIALE, (the Foundation) to fund the construction of a new Community Health Centre (as an ‘outpatient’ facility). The new Health Centre, when completed, will provide a larger and more welcoming ‘space’ for existing services for women and children, as well as the opportunity to enhance other services.

The Health Service is accountable to the Provincial Health Department, though located on the property of HEAL Africa Hospital.  HEAL Africa is responsible for the expansion of existing programs and staffing.  Currently these programs and services are conducted in very cramped conditions at one end of an existing building.

Current Community Health Centre in HEAL Africa Hospital


This week, the Princess Caroline, the Brazilian Ambassador and the Secretary-General of Amade Mondiale visited HEAL Africa Hospital to lay a Foundation Stone, sign a Memorandum of Understanding and view a PowerPoint presentation by Dr Jo Lusi regarding the plans for the new Health Centre. The official duties were followed by a number of ceremonies by local ladies.

Princess Caroline of Monaco laying the Foundation Stone

Signing of MoU between HEAL Africa & Amade Mondiale

‘CAPOIERA for PEACE’ is a project based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Brazilian Ambassador and Dr Jo Lusi invited Neil & Gwen to attend a graduation ceremony of the Goma Capoiera, as part of the visit by UNICEF and Princess Caroline of Monaco.

Capoiera Presentation

CAPOIERA is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music. It was developed in Brazil mainly by Angolans at the beginning of the 16th century. It is known for its quick and complex maneuvers, power, speed, and leverage across a wide variety of kicks, spins and techniques. Capoeira is currently being used as a tool in sports development to promote psychosocial wellbeing in various youth projects around the world.


Neil & Gwen were visited by a friend from Brisbane, Dave Malengret. He was born in Gisenyi, Rwanda and grew up in Goma DRC. His father ran a business in the main street of Goma when he was a boy. Dave, who had not returned to Goma since he left the area as a child about 47 years ago, welcomed the opportunity to meet up with friends and acquaintances from long ago.

Dave also fulfilled one of his goals in coming to Goma – that of ‘climbing the mountain’.  What he had not realised was that it takes about 5 hours to ascend Mt Nyiragongo (the volcano) and that the tour includes an overnight stay at the top to maximise the experience of gazing down into the crater to see the burning lava at night.  The descent takes about 3 hours.  He is a fit man so managed the trip very well – however, some have said that it is very difficult.  Neil would love to do the climb, but Gwen is not sure she would make it.

Neil & Gwen relaxing by the Green Lake