Currently, over 5 billion people around the world do not have access to safe and affordable surgical services. This led Dr. Michael Marin, a vascular surgeon and Chief of Surgery for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, USA, to consider extending Mount Sinai’s surgical knowledge and care to places where it was most needed and likely to have an impact. After consideration, Dr. Marin and his colleagues chose to build a facility in Kyabirwa Uganda, due to the stability of the country and the presence of many NGOs working in healthcare in the area.
According to Dr. Marin, the community was heavily involved in building the the Kyabirwa Surgical Facility Centre. This helped instill a sense of ownership by the local population for the facility. “Some people did not have skills, but they were taught,” says Dr. Marin. “Everything was built by hand, even the bricks were made locally. The design is unique and has already won the 2020 AIA healthcare design award – a very prestigious architectural award. The idea was to have a facility that the community would take pride in, and that would fit in the rural landscape of the village.”
Since the surgical centre opened in November 2019, the facility has performed close to 450 surgeries with remote assistance from Mount Sinai in New York and attended to over 1,000 patients in need of surgical services.
A key factor in getting this ambitious project off the ground was robust and high-speed internet connectivity to enable sharing the knowledge and skills between New York and Kyabirwa.
“During the planning phase, one of our colleagues brought on the program a Ugandan IT expert to help set up the cloud-based infrastructure. Looking into ISPs, RENU’s name came up, and RENU has been a game-changer in providing the internet connectivity as well as the network contacts to make the program come true”, adds Dr. Marin.
Connectivity via the RENU network enables the center to surgical procedures to be conducted in Kyabirwa with real-time, live support from surgeons in New York. Acoording to Dr. Marin, this would be impossible without such strong internet connectivity and bandwidth.
“Having US surgeons coming down to Uganda for 2-3 weeks and then going back to the US could not provide a stable service,” he says. “We needed Ugandan surgeons to take care of Ugandan patients. With access to a high-speed internet, there is no need to bring down skilled surgeons and support personnel to Uganda from New York, which is very expensive and not always done timely. Our Internet connection allows teaching and tutorials online, physicians from New York can host online training for Ugandan doctors – as long as the doctor’s hands are visible on the screen. His would not work if there is a delay.”
Dr. Joseph Okello, a resident surgeon at Kyabwira Surgical Centre agrees that RENU’s Internet connectivity has made operations at the facility smoother and easier.
“Our internet has been our most important asset here at Kyabwira; luckily we have reliable internet connectivity from RENU that allows for many important things, including live surgical operations. We can send live feeds from here to our colleagues at Mount Sinai who are very experienced and have a lot of knowledge crucial for our operations. So far we are also able to carry out live endoscopy operations with our colleagues from New York.”
Thanks to the Internet connectivity provided by the Research and Education Network of Uganda (RENU), Mount Sinai can offer remote surgical services assistance to the Kyabirwa Surgical Facility Centre in the East African Nation.
Dr. Okello on the reliability of the RENU network.