For some time, the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) clinic at Apapai Health Centre IV in Serere district, Uganda, which sees patients with HIV/AIDS, regularly experienced missed appointments, patients arriving late and long queues and waiting times. Staff are very few and they are often called to help in other departments as well. This all contributed to poor viral load suppression of HIV in patients’ blood and thus a greater chance of transmission.
Opolot Kokas is the Clinical Officer in charge of the ART clinic. Having participated in several leadership training sessions run by the Caring Together project, including time management, Kokas proposed reducing patient waiting times by arriving at 6am rather than the usual 8.30am on ART clinic days. This meant that they could be seen more quickly, before health workers’ other duties interfered. When the district’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) recently did a spot check at Kokas’s facility he found that all ART patients had been seen by 9am. The long queues are no more and clients’ viral load suppression has improved. Health workers know the importance of this in eradicating HIV in Uganda and are willing to go the extra mile to help their communities using the minimal resources that they have.
Kokas’s example had clearly had an effect on his colleagues, which showed through in the project’s data. This led to his facility winning the award for Best Time-Keeping at the Serere World AIDS Day ceremony on 1st December 2016. The CAO was so impressed by what he had seen that he invited Kokas to stand up and receive a round of applause at the event.
Patients have also started appreciating the extra efforts being made by their health workers, bringing them chicken and soda, something the facility had never experienced before. Other facilities are learning from Apapai HCIV and Kokas was even recognised at an event in another district in Eastern region. His facility held a staff Christmas party to celebrate their award and they hope to retain it next year by continuing to serve their clients with such dedication.
This is just one of the many innovative solutions that mentors have come up with through the Caring Together project, in order to improve the performance of Uganda’s health facilities and the impact on the communities that they serve.