(Xinhua) -- In the lush green compound of Jinja
Regional Referral Hospital in eastern Uganda, a tree blossoms.
It is no ordinary tree, but a tree that signifies the 29-year
relation between Chinese medical teams and the hospital.
The teams have since 2012 been shifted
to another hospital in the capital Kampala, but the memories
here live on.
At the acupuncture ward, patients from
different parts of the country queue to have the traditional
Chinese therapy. In the ward, two local nurses administer the
therapy, there is no Chinese acupuncturist.
The nurses, Rose Kawuma and Jesca
Namugoya, learnt the skill from the different Chinese medical
teams that were on placement at the hospital under an agreement
between the Ugandan government and China.
The Chinese government since 1983 has
been dispatching rotating medical teams to Jinja. As of 2012, a
total of 15 groups of medical teams have worked at the hospital,
with a total of 147 medical staff, according to the hospital
Kawuma and Namugoya are the only known
locals who administer acupuncture and it is only at Jinja
hospital among all government health facilities in the country
where it is administered apart from the the Chinese-donated
China-Uganda Friendship Hospital Naguru in the capital Kampala.
“I learnt on the job, I used to see
what my Chinese doctor used to do and eventually he allowed me
to start administering acupuncture under close supervision,”
Kawuma told Xinhua at the hospital.
She said over the years, she has
gained experience and she now does it without any supervision.
As she carefully inserts the needles
into a male patient, on the other side of the one-roomed ward,
partitioned by a curtain, a female patient waits.
The ward is open half day from Monday
to Friday which keeps Kawuma and Namugoya busy. Most of the
patients, according to Kawuma, are elderly and some suffer from
As Kawuma was treating the patients,
Namugoya was waiting for new supplies of acupuncture needles
from the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital.
Namugoya told Xinhua that at times
they run out of supplies which drastically affects the operation
of the ward.
“We cannot ask the patients to buy the
acupuncture needles because that is not acceptable. We have to
rely on supplies from the friendship hospital,” she said.
There was joy among the patients as
Namugoya walked in with a box of needles.
Lubega Agiri Aligawesa, assistant
commissioner nursing at the hospital told Xinhua that they are
overwhelmed by the number of patients who want acupuncture.
She said that the hospital currently
needs to train more acupuncture nurses so that when they leave,
others can continue to work.
“More and more Ugandans believe in the
efficacy of acupuncture, and they really like it,” she said.
Kawuma, according to Aligawesa, will
soon retire, meaning that Namugoya will have a heavier workload.
She said the hospital is ready to send
about two nurses to the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital so that
they can learn from the Chinese acupuncturist there.
“We can’t always be with Chinese
doctors, we need to do things ourselves and carry out
acupuncture skills. I hope they continue to support our work,
especially the training,” she said.
Wilber Wabwire, 58 years old, has been
receiving acupuncture at the ward for several years.
“A few years ago, I had a back pain
and my right leg could not move. I tried various drugs, but they
all failed. One doctor suggested that I try Chinese acupuncture
treatment,” Wabwire told Xinhua while lying on the treatment
“Doctor Qian and Doctor Li of the
Chinese medical team used to give me some needle treatment,” he
He said he comes to the ward twice or
thrice a month and he is now feeling much better and is able to
do his work.