BGH team’s Zambia tasks: advise on HIV and burns – and repair heart monitor

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The twinning link between the Borders General Hospital (BGH) and a Zambian hospital, established to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, has “blossomed into helping more health departments”, according to its co-founder Dr Dorothy Logie.

Earlier this month, BGH nurse lecturer Ruth Magowan, Coldstream GP Dr Francis Carnegy, public health specialist Chris Faldon, hospital engineer Chris Heap and Dr Logie spent a week in eastern Zambia, to explore how the BGH can best support its sister hospital, St Francis in Katete.

Last November five medics travelled the 5,225 miles to St Francis to teach a midwifery course aiming to save mothers’ lives from the five main causes of maternal mortality: excessive bleeding, high blood pressure, infection, obstructed labour, and unsafe abortion. In Zambia, 440 mothers die while giving birth per 100,000 deaths, compared with just 12 in the UK.

The project leader Dr Brian Magowan, a consultant obstetrician and gynacologist at the BGH who is Ruth’s husband, and midwifery Sister Margaret Davison are returning this November to continue teaching their life-saving course – which has since been rolled out across Zambia – accompanied by BGH midwives Susie McFadzen and Sarah Galloway, and labour ward doctor Kerrie Thomson.

The September group, who returned a few days ago, identified many ways to help in the future, from funding and fixing equipment to medical expertise and training. The hospital’s X-ray machine, an essential tool in diagnosing widespread tuberculosis, needs fixing, and money is needed to buy £50 bicycles for a TB treatment support team of Zambian volunteers.

Dr Carnegy got the hospital’s electrocardiograph machine, which measures heart rate, to work after it had been broken for a year

On his ward rounds, he observed: “A lot of Zambian life revolves around the fire, and the flickering of the flames can set off epileptic fits. The majority of the burns on the ward are caused by epileptics falling into the fire.”

“The burns are often third degree and down to the bone, because many Zambians believe if you touch someone having an epileptic fit you become cursed. Witchcraft still affects medical care in Zambia,” continued Dr Jess Cooper, who spent a year working at the hospital.

Both GPs noted an £8,000 electric dermatome, or skin grafter, would increase the burns victims’ chances of recovery.

An email contact system would also help Zambian doctors discuss diagnoses with specialists in the Borders.

The link between St Francis and the BGH honours the work of Sandy Logie, a physician who retired from the BGH in 1993 to help fight AIDS in Africa.

He died in 2001 after contracting HIV doing voluntary work in Zambia six years earlier, when a needle he was using on a patient struck his finger.

His wife, Dorothy, a retired GP living in Bowden, continued Sandy’s work by helping found the link in 2009, and raising £10,000 for a clinic at St Francis Hospital named after her husband – now one of the biggest outlets dispensing anti-AIDS drugs in Zambia.

Since Dorothy’s visits, a number of BGH staff have been to St Francis’, including genito-urinary consultant Dr Dan Clutterbuck, sexual health nurse Gillian Forbes, pharmacist Vince Summers, radiographer Ros Thomson, and obstetricians Dr Faye Rodger and Dr Burnett Lunan – along with Borders GPs Dr Jonny McDonagh and Dr Helen Lunan, Burnett’s husband.

“We need to fundraise to keep this going,” Dr Magowan concluded. To donate, go to www.justgiving.com/SMLZambia2012