HVP Gatagara Specialised Orthopedics Hospital for people with disabilities is struggling. The facility based in Nyanza district, southern province, is the only national specialised hospital that offers various services to people living with various forms of physical disability.
The facility has capacity to receive 300 outpatients monthly. However, that number has more than doubled since June last year.
The hospital offers services including consultations, surgery, physiotherapy, occupational Therapy and Disability Function (providing things like prosthetics and plastic calipers).
The facility was constructed in the 1960s and only seen some changes in the last two years. Despite having other support centers in other regions such as Gikondo (Kigali) and Gahini (eastern province), HVP Gatagara provides more services and it is where the specialized doctors are based.
The flood of patients arose following the inclusion of physiotherapy among services payable by health insurance beginning June 15 last year, according to Brother Kizito Misago, the hospital’s Director General.
As a result, the medical and support staff are stretched beyond limit. It has 104 staff, and is still waiting for addition 50 others promised by the health ministry.
When Minister Dr Diane Gashumba, visited the facility in early July last year, she pledged to avail modern equipment to fabricate orthopedic and prosthetic devices.
The Minister was officially upgrading it as the HVP Gatagara-Nyanza specialised Orthopedics Hospital.
“HVP Gatagara was the first centre for the care, education and reintegration of the handicapped people and has been in existence for the last 58 years. It has been improving services over the years and has now been a specialised hospital,” she said.
Gatagara receives about 4,000 patients, including 1,500 children on residential basis who receive care and education – staying there for many years.
In addition, some 2,500 physically disabled people are treated on an outpatient or semi-residential basis – with average stay of one month.
With a huge number of people needing physio services, patients have to wait for more than 12 months to get it. It means that the urgently needed treatment may come when the person has become permanently disabled.
During the writing of this story, The Chronicles witnessed first-hand patients who had booked months ago and were waiting for their turn to be attended to.
“If a patient does not get physio intervention immediately they are determined as requiring it, the disability can easily develop into permanent disability which can lead to death in some cases,” said Jean Claude Tuyishimire, an occupational Therapist at Gatagara.
In another crucial section like surgery, which makes life-saving corrective procedures, there are only two specialists. Their work-load has grown from 16 patients monthly to more than 40.
The situation at Gatagara has also attracted the attention of Parliament.
Mussolini Eugene, who represents people with disabilities in the Chamber of Deputies, said told us he going to engage health and local government ministries for action when contacted for comment on the situation.
“I will also seek to understand why RSSB covers some services and not 100% of them like it does with other medical conditions,” he said referring to the Rwanda Social Security Board, which handles universal health insurance scheme.
The situation at Gatagara is so serious that President Paul Kagame was asked about it in the interactive session during his visit in the Southern Province in February.