Dr. Ghee Hwang guides medical professionals during surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Dr. Ghee Hwang guides medical professionals during surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Sending support to Uganda

The annual Apwoyo Gulu fundraiser helps out St. Mary’s Hospital in Northern Uganda.

The staff members at St. Mary’s Hospital in Lacor, Gulu, Uganda, do the best they can to care for their patients.

The 474-bed hospital has up to 700 patients a day with patients sleeping on the floors or outside under the trees. There is not enough staff, and while many are well-trained, others have just basic training and others are learning on the job. Supplies are short and the temperatures can reach 48 degrees with high humidity.

Canadian and other medical teams are welcomed for the supplies and equipment they bring and for the training they provide.

Vernon surgeon Dr. Ghee Hwang has been teaching surgical skills to surgical residents, medical students and hospital staff, as well as offering his own skills to the surgical program since 2008.

“I teach the doctors and we have put together a course with books for nurses. There is no standardized training for nurses in the country and they were quite excited to have this opportunity. We want to train the nurses so that they will be able to train others; that way, they help themselves and won’t always need someone else coming in,” he said. “Our mission is to return yearly to teach peri-operative nursing skills to Ugandan nurses, and will need funds to achieve our goals.”

In 2011, Hwang and other medical professionals formed a group with the goal of raising funds, to be used towards providing education, medical and surgical supplies and equipment for St. Mary’s. It’s the largest hospital in Northern Uganda and is funded mostly by charitable donations from the Corti Foundation.

“It survives on around three million Euros ($3.7 million Canadian),” said Hwang.

In Vernon, funds are raised through the annual Apwoyo Gulu fundraiser. This year’s event takes place Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Schubert Centre and includes dinner, entertainment and a silent auction, as well as a slide show featuring St. Mary’s Hospital and the surrounding countryside. There will be a no-host bar. All profits go towards educational materials and medical supplies and equipment.

Sponsorship and donations of more than $20 are tax-deductible, with receipts from the Canadian Network for International Surgery. Donations and items for the silent auction are also welcome.

There are several levels of sponsorship: platinum for $1,000 or more; gold for $500; silver for $300; bronze for $100.

Tickets to the fundraiser are $35 per person or $280 per table of eight.

For tickets, please contact Ronda Furlan at 250-549-2898, Teresa Hwang at 250-549-1356 or Heidi Schelb-Fackler at 250-833-4205.