AusHeal Blog

November 2016 in Congo

Greetings from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo – a nation that does not stop for a horse race…  does not have to vote in the USA elections nor choose whether to stay within or exit from the European Union….. but a nation that wants to be democratic, could be a republic, wants to have new president elections ….. but still is… Congo!!


SECURITY in D R Congo:

Things have currently remained relatively calm around the country as far as we know.  As the country approaches November 19th the tension is likely to rise.  Probably the most significant date is going to be December 19, when constitutionally the leader is supposed to step down.

Goma has been quite calm.  There have been the usual incidents of gunshot wounds and accidental injuries but to date none related to the security situation.  Today we noticed a group of young people gathered at one of the universities here, so perhaps they are gearing up for the next round of protest marches.



One night as we were seated at the dinner table at Maji (our accommodation), in walked a new guest . As he began to speak it was obvious he was an Aussie! He was with the TEAR Australia Fund, staying at Maji on and off for a couple of weeks.  The Tear Fund office is located immediately next door to the Maji property.  It is rare for another Aussie who is not connected to our regular AusHEAL, Sonic or WorldShare teams to visit Goma.


TRAINING at HEAL Africa Hospital (HAH):

Dr Luc Malemo (Director of Surgery, HAH) has been appointed the new Dean of HATS Heal Africa Training Scheme, with Dr Neil Wetzig as the Deputy Dean.   HEAL Africa’s vision was originally to train Congolese doctors in-country.   However this changed for a number of years to allow specialist training in other African countries.  HEAL Africa has now established a solid basis for the future direction of the hospital and its leadership as these specialists have returned to work here. Therefore, a group of potential trainers has been established locally.  Many of the returned qualified  specialists will train others in their areas of specialty, all under the HEAL Africa Training Scheme H.A.T.S.

Dr Luc, Dean of HATS with Dr Jo Lusi, Founder of HAH

Dr Luc, Dean of HATS with Dr Jo Lusi, Founder of HAH


COSECSA (College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa): Following the very helpful COSECSA course recently in Kigali on Basic Surgical Skills, the 5 surgical Trainees from HAH attended a weekend course (again in Kigali, Rwanda) on Surgical Physiology.  Each Trainee was partnered with a Trainee from Rwanda and together they presented on a topic.  During the following week back at HAH, Neil had one of the Trainees with him on 2 occasions while seeing a patient.  HE questioned the trainee about a particular situation, and on both occasions each Trainee thought through the question and answered correctly.  Both Trainees were delighted to be able to say, “I learned that at the weekend Physiology course in Kigali.”.



While discussing with the Chiefs of Nursing at HAH about selecting suitable nurses to receive an AusHEAL Short-Term Development Grant to visit a hospital in another African setting, the Chiefs shared the following:

  • “Visiting AusHEAL Teams from Australia (Doctors + Nurses) give us innovations and we use them to improve.”
  • “Your Teams know us better – they know our strengths – and know where we need to improve.”
  • “AusHEAL Teams ‘adapt’ training to our level.”

It is encouraging to see both the improved level of nursing care at the hospital and the way in which the nurses benefit from the visits of the AusHEAL Nursing Teams.



After 3 years of AusHEAL-sponsored specialist training in ‘Emergency’ in Tanzania, Dr Muller has now qualified and returned to HAH eager to make its Emergency Department efficient and well-organised; together with training its staff to be capable, competent and caring.  Dr Muller is the first fully-trained Emergency Specialist in the whole of D R Congo.

2017 DEC07

2016 NOV02

Dr Muller being welcomed by Dr Neil


This week Dr Neil Wetzig is visiting Washington DC to attend the G4 Alliance Board Meeting.  The G4 Alliance is a global alliance to look at strategies to improve Surgery, Obstetrics, Trauma and Anaesthesia care in the developing world.  Neil represents HEAL Africa Hospital on this Board. He is passionate about representing and advocating for the real needs ‘on the ground’ in these 4 areas of unmet medical needs in countries like D R Congo.



One of the reasons that Neil is passionate about Global surgery is because of what we see ‘on the ground’ at HAH as poor surgical outcomes.  In the last fortnight two major surgeries each lasting 6-7 hours have been conducted to ‘re-arrange’ the abdomen and bowel of 2 women who had surgery, complicated by more surgery in a peripheral centre.  Referral to HAH was arranged due to continuing bowel motion leaking from their abdominal wounds. Both women are now doing fairly well.

Another case with similar complications, though in a male, is planned for the week after Neil returns from Washington.  Such complex cases continue to be good opportunities to work alongside the HAH surgeons, and to work as a team.

In a further surgical case Neil operated with one of the HAH surgeons on a 30-year old woman from a remote island in Lake Kivu.  12 years previously she had had a caesarian section for the delivery of her first child.  The baby tragically died. During the operation the mother’s ureter (tube from the kidney to the bladder) was sewn into her vagina.  She has leaked urine ever since. Her husband left her, and she then had no chance of ever falling pregnant.  It is satisfying that some dignity has been restored to her life (albeit 12 years too late) when her ureter was able to be re-implanted into her bladder – and now she is ‘dry’.



We have always believed there is a special ‘synergy’ between Africa and Australia,   not just in the way people get along, but also in the vegetation (many gum trees) and flora (hibiscus, bouganvillea and beautiful bottlebrush trees).  We have one of these outside our room at Maji. Also, we can walk out of our AusHEAL office at the Hospital and look down on another bottlebrush tree and feel not so far away after all.