AusHeal Blog

Medical and Nursing Team update

On Saturday 2 September, seven MEDICAL Team members arrived at Goma Airport to join the NURSING team already working hard the previous week.  The second team settled in to prepare for two very full-on weeks.

In total, AusHEAL has had 15 volunteers at HEAL Africa Hospital (HAH) this month. It has been an extremely effective AusHEAL team!!  Hospital staff here have commented positively and often about the clinical skills of the team, the style of teaching/training, as well as the relationships formed.

Welcome to the AusHEAL Medical Team


On the second last day of the Nurses teaching/training program, the Secretary-General of the DRCongo North Kivu Province Health Committee attended a ‘thank-you’ ceremony to the AusHEAL Nursing Team with the presentation of ‘Participation in Nursing Training’ Certificates to all the HEAL Africa nurses who had attended the various training sessions AusHEAL had conducted.

DRCongo North Kivu Provincial Health Secretary-General presenting

Nurses with Certificates

MATERNITY, Ante-Natal Nursing Training……                                                         

Visiting AusHEAL midwife, Alison Gregory, was invited to contribute to the ante-natal classes which are conducted by the HEAL Africa Hospital community health centre.  She was very well received. It is an area that has been on our minds for the past couple of years. It was a great opportunity to have Alison visit.

AnteNatal Class


HEAL Africa Hospital has the ONLY qualified Emergency Department Specialist in all of DRCongo, Dr Muller, his specialist training and qualification in Tanzania sponsored by AusHEAL.  It was good for him to meet up once again with visiting AusHEAL Emergency Medicine volunteers: Dr Graham Zerk and Nurse Mercy Hanna.

The visit also allowed Dr Muller and Dr Graham to discuss higher management issues of the HAH Emergency Department. It’s current physical location and department setup means maximum efficiency cannot be further achieved as facilities are not adequate to deal with current emergencies being received. The 2 doctors were able to assess and discuss the issue.

Dr Neil Wetzig, Dr Muller, Dr Graham Zerk at the Emergency Department

Nurse Mercy Hanna discussing Basic Life Support


Approximately 100 HAH staff from across the Hospital, doctors and nurses together with parahealth and Projects personnel gathered from 9am – 3pm for an AusHEAL Weekend WORKSHOP to address the topic of ‘A B C’……

  • A  =  Attitude
  • B  =  Back to Basics
  • C  =  Communication

AusHEAL had previously identified areas requiring attention throughout the Hospital in previous visits. Senior Leaders of HEAL Africa Hospital affirmed such emphasis and education was needed across the whole organisation.  The AusHEAL Team conducted a role-play throughout the day that began with a patient arriving in the Emergency Department with a leg abcess and following that patient through Imaging (Radiology), Surgery, Recovery, Ward, Intensive Care and finally being discharged.

All attendees were divided into groups across all departments with a series of questions being posed at the end of each role-play scenario that related to the topics of Attitude / Back to Basics / Communication.  There was lively discussion regarding the answers and much hilarity at some of the acting abilities of the team!!

The major benefit of the day was when HEAL Africa attendees divided into their respective hospital departments to consider the impact of these three focus areas in their own service area.  The results of these discussions are still to be relayed back to the HAH Senior Leadership and the AusHEAL Team Leaders.

Workshop discussions

Role Play patient

Workshop scenarios


(College of Surgeons of Eastern Central & Southern Africa): AusHEAL anaesthetists (Dr Kerstin Wyssusek and Dr Luke Heywood) participated in training sessions to teach/train basic anaesthesia to the COSECSA surgical trainees, doctors who will ultimately work in rural areas. Sessions were also spent with and directed towards the HEAL Africa Hospital Nurse-Anaesthetists.

Dr Kerstin Wyssusek, the Director of Anaesthetics at the Royal Brisbane and Womens Hospital in Australia also addressed higher skills such as management of an anaesthetic department. Dr Luke Heywood taught ultrasound guided nerve blocks using an ultrasound machine donated by AusHEAL for this specific purpose to HEAL Africa Hospital. Nerve blocks rather than general anaesthesia form an important component of anaesthetics in hospitals in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Luke Heywood & Dr Kirsten Wyssusek with Surgeon Dr Neil Wetzig


Dr Kigayi, Congolese recipient of an AusHEAL Scholarship for Specialist Training is training as a Doctor- Anaesthetist in Tanzania. He returned to HAH for a 3-weeks during the AusHEAL team visit, only having exposure to our 2 Team Anaesthetists for 2 days. It was timely & beneficial that they could all meet up.

HAH Anaesthetist Dr Kigayi returns


Finally!! …… the CT Scanner, originally sent from Australia a few years ago, is now operating. This is great news.  Fine tuning is still to occur. Three CTs were performed during the last couple of days before the majority of the team departed last Saturday. It has been a long journey for AusHEAL Radiologist, Dr Murray Thorn. Wonderful for him to see and be instrumental in the eventual operation of the scanner.

What a bonus! Again, a first for AusHEAL teams. We had a Medical Equipment Specialist Technician (Tim Maleevsky) on team who spent most of his time helping the HEAL Africa Hospital Technical team get the CT scanner working.

Dr Murray Thorn at the CT Scanner

Tim with Imaging staff operating the CT


The AusHEAL Hospital Patient Fund was established to fund the care of both surgical and medical patients (treated by AusHEAL team members) who have genuinely been unable to afford their clinical care during the team visit. Every Hospital Service (department) where an AusHEAL team member was involved, reported the value of the teaching and training provided through same.


  • There have been several difficult paediatric surgical cases to deal with. Appropriate advice was sought by our surgeons and given from a senior Australian Paediatric Surgeon in Brisbane, Dr Peter Borzi.  This has been greatly appreciated!!

    Dr Neil Wetzig with one of the paediatric patients in ICU

  • Several team members suffered illness including diarrhoea & vomiting, colds & flu necessitating disappointing ‘days off’.
  • The patient death-toll seen on this trip was high, emotionally draining on team members who gave their all to keep patients alive. Some of the patients who died were critically ill.
  • Once again there were patients referred from peripheral areas who arriving in an extremely poor state. Hence the AusHEAL emphasis on educating those in Goma and those who will go on to practice in peripheral centres.
  • On a more positive note, team members worked hard with input into the care of a 22- year-old orphan in Intensive Care, stabbed in the chest when trying to break up a fight. He was an innocent victim with no family and no resources. The AusHEAL Hospital Patient Fund contributed to his care. In past years, there has often been 1 patient with whom many team members have been closely involved, both clinically and consequently emotionally. AusHEAL Team Leaders were later approached separately by a representative of the orphanage to thank the team for all their support and care.

    ICU patient with AusHEAL Nurse Julie. (Photo with permission)


The whole team was invited to the wedding of one of the HAH staff members.  Ten AusHEAL members attended, mostly dressed in Congolese attire. Embarrassingly, they were seated down the front at the wedding reception.  The team was presented with a cooked goat (highly valued in DRCongo) and one of the tiers of the wedding cake.

Team in Congolese attire

Plans for new buildings: Today, the roof is being removed from an old building in the hospital. The remainder of the building will soon be totally demolished to make way for a new 3-storey Women’s & Children’s Pavilion, funded by a donor from the USA.

The DRCongo national Doctors’ strike mentioned in our last blog has ended with work returning to normal.  Over the weekend, a Congolese doctor travelling to Goma from a northern centre to attend a Provincial Health meeting, was kidnapped. A ransom was requested.  The Doctor and a few other staff were to be travelling in a convoy guarded by the Congolese Army. The incident caused reconsideration by other doctors in North Kivu Province to go on strike again, demonstrating to the Government that the kidnapping practice was not acceptable.

AusHEAL Team, September 2017

TEAM LEADERS & organizers Neil & Gwen Wetzig, tired from 3 busy weeks with AusHEAL Teams visiting HAH, were greatly energised and encouraged by the quality of the team members, their skills, personalities, team participation and willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ in so many ways.  A really great team!!!!