Until lately when government stepped up its intervention on maternal death, the country was losing close to 36 mothers in the process of giving birth every day, with 18 of those deaths registered from northern Uganda.
According to the 2016 Uganda Health Demographic and Health Survey released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the numbers of mothers who die while giving birth reduced from 438 to 368 deaths per 100, 000 live births.
It is exactly after this unfortunate situation that challenged the pioneer leaders of Lira Constituent College then, now Lira University to design a degree course in Nursing and Midwifery, which could see the prestigious public University becoming a center of academic excellence in East and Central Africa
One of the framers of this unique course is Professor Jasper Ogwal Okeng who is now the vice chancellor of Lira University.
On Monday, TND News correspondent Frank Oyugi caught up with him at the faculty of health sciences.
“Aware of the challenge of high maternal rate in this part of the country, we had to carefully design this course to address the need,” Professor Ogwal affirmatively said.
When Lira University first opened its doors to the public to enroll for a degree in Nursing and Midwifery, Ogwal Okeng says many people got confused and wondered why they were offering such a course and how the graduates would be different from the enrolled nurses and midwives.
Why degree nurses?
But Professor Ogwal explains that legally and ethically one only takes responsibility after attaining a bachelor’s degree.
“Professionally, you are not a nurse if you don’t have a degree qualification,” he asserted.
He adds that in the curriculum design, students are subjected to a comprehensive and holistic exposure to aspects of caesarian section among other complications.
The Professor quickly adds that…“this does not mean that the nurses themselves will conduct the C-section but that the training equips them with necessary skills needed to assist an obstetrician or a gynecologist in case of any complication. They are also taught to manage miscarriages which pose death threats to the lives of many women.”
TND News also learnt that the faculty of health sciences, which comprises of Nursing and Midwifery and Public Health also, has a fully-fledged maternity unit. This comprises of a labor ward, a room for operative deliveries, a ward for discharged mothers and a place for keeping babies.
Professor Ogwal says they also have equipment to manage an expectant mother right from antenatal visits to the time of giving birth which helps in monitoring conditions like pressure, fetus growth and pulse rate among others, thus reducing the death of losing a mother and her child
Dean throws more light why there is need for degree nurses
According to Arac Agnes, the degree programming also emphasizes research into maternal health which provides an opportunity for the graduates to ensure safety of the mother and that of a child.
She says the degree program at Lira University is also an opportunity for diploma nurses and midwives to further their education and to upgrade their skills on operative procedures care for mothers and to enhance their work with obstetricians and gynecologists.
Anna Agnes Arac has a master’s degree in Midwifery and will soon enroll for her PhD- she has been heading the department since the degree program started at Lira University.
Seed Global Health hails partnership with Lira University
Dr. Vanessa Kerry who’s the Chief Executive Officer of Seed Global Health, an international organization based in the United States of America, over the last five years, she said Seed Global Health has jetted in five senior lecturers to train degree nurses and midwives at Lira University.
”Our Primary mission is to train and enhance education opportunities to leverage the health staffing level in this country which will improve services in the community,” Dr. Vanessa told a news conference at the university on Monday.
She expressed happiness on the partnership with Lira University and said besides the training Seed Global Health had also given equipments to improve maternal health.
The first teaching hospital established
Apart from setting record as the first degree awarding public University in Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Jasper Ogwal Okneng could not hide his happiness about the teaching hospital; the first of its kind to be established in a public University.
The multi-billion magnificent hospital worth shs7 billion was constructed by the government of Uganda with support from African Development Bank.
“It will have the state of the art equipments and specialist doctors,” Professor Ogwal added.
The facility will have lecture rooms, an outpatient department, emergency rooms and theatres on the ground floor. The upper floors will house specialized units and offices among others
Once completed, Professor Ogwal says the hospital will also have a modern pathologist teaching room and an incinerator.
“The requirements have already reached Mombasa port,” Mr. Okeng revealed.
Benefit to community
Asked by TND’s Frank Oyugi on the benefit that comes with the teaching hospital, Professor Ogwal said even now the University is already offering immunization services to the community citing hepatitis by vaccinations.
“The maternity unit is also open to women for antenatal visits and management because we have modern facilities and skilled staff.”
“At the moment we have all the necessary equipment and a midwife with master’s degree qualifications,” a University top official added.
The Vice Chancellor also boasts that the teaching hospital will have specialist to handle health related complication and also venture into research which will benefit the local community.
Lira University campus is located on approximately 500 acres (202 ha) of land, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) by road, west of downtown Lira off Lira–Kamdini road.
The University first opened in August 2012 with 100 students. At that time, the institution was a Constituent College of Gulu University and was known as Gulu University Constituent College Lira. It was also referred to as Lira University College.
In June 2015, the Uganda Ministry of Education elevated her to a University, effective with 2016-17 academic years that began in August 2016.
It also has institute of medical sciences, institute of medicinal plants and biodiversity and faculty of engineering and technology.
Additional reporting by Immaculate Amony