Rwanda Medical Volunteers Organization (MVO), a local non-profit organization, has launched an initiative which aims to mobilize specialist Rwandan doctors to provide voluntary medical services to the communities in rural and semi-urban areas.
Through this initiative, the Rwandan medical specialist practitioners will provide free medical consultations and surgery to the rural based patients that have conditions which require specialized medical services. This is the first voluntary medical outreach initiative to be launched by a local organization. This organization will provide a bridge to bring together specialist medical practitioners and members of the community that would otherwise not be able to afford such services. This will be achieved through partnership with local authorities, district hospitals and other partners.
The Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Medical Volunteers Organization, who also serves as a gynecologist and obstetrician at King Faisal Hospital, Dr. Jean Paul Byiringiro, says that the organization was created primarily to promote access to specialized medical services especially in the rural areas where such services are not available.
“The organization exists to mobilize specialist medical practitioners especially those who benefited from Government sponsorship to volunteer in medical outreach activities as a way of giving back to the community which supported their studies in one way or another until they became specialists in their fields,” Dr. Byiringiro said.
Although the World Health Organization(WHO) recommends a minimum of one doctor per 1,000 people, Rwanda has fewer doctors.
According to the National Strategy for Health Professions Development 2020–2030, Rwanda’s doctor per population ratio rose from 1 doctor per 16,001 people in 2010 to 1 doctor per 8,919 in 2018. The number of Rwandan specialist doctors also rose from 94 in 2009 to 436 specialists in 2018.
Due to inadequate number of general practitioners and specialist doctors, public health centers and district hospitals don’t have enough general practitioners and specialist doctors. Patients with conditions that require specialists are sent to referral hospitals which are expensive. In some cases, transferred patients have to wait for weeks to meet a specialist due to high demand.
According to the Director General of Nyamata Hospital in Bugesera District Dr. William Rutagengwa, the hospital lacks specialist doctors in fields such as general surgery, orthopedic surgery, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), Neurology, Psychiatry, Dermatology, and Ophthalmology and patients seeking these services are referred to the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) and Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH) in Kigali.