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Making a Mark - St. Vincent Healthcare Hosts Medical Professionals from Tanzania


Billings, MT - Last year, SCL Health created a relationship with the Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (ALMC) in Tanzania. Since the development of this, SCL Health has sent several leaders to the country in hopes of teaching practices to the medical professionals who do not have the same resources like those provided in the United States.

Dr. Peter Mabula, Emergency Medicine Chief, and Bahati Ng’obo, Emergency Department Nurse Director, are both employed by ALMC and recently had the opportunity to travel to various hospitals within the SCL Health System. Their travels included coming to St. Vincent Healthcare to receive training and education on how to create a more efficient and dynamic emergency medical services team.

Mabula and Bahati requested to tour SCL Health’s facilities in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the complex medical system. Dr. Mabula is the only trained emergency physician at ALMC, so he oversees the rest of the emergency staff, who are all general practitioners.

Both professionals had the opportunity to go on St. Vincent’s HELP Flight and were particularly impressed by how readily equipped the helicopter was, prepared to treat most injuries before even arriving at the hospital. On the flight, they learned about the integrated communication that occurs between the team on the flight and the teams within the walls of the hospital.

“Most of our patients in Tanzania come into the hospital without notification,” said Dr. Mabula. “Some just walk in and others drive.”

Mabula also noted that the flow of care is much different in the United States than in Tanzania. At ALMC, they are looking to mimic St. Vincent’s triage system, in determining what department is responsible for treating an ill or injured patient, even before they arrive.

“The first responders at almost all emergencies are police officers,” said Dr. Mabula. “We would like to provide training for these responders, as a lot of the emergencies are trauma incidents from motorbikes.”

Although the ALMC is ten years old, they just introduced an emergency department two years ago, which has started to improve the overall infrastructure of their facility. The department now has five beds, three of which are for emergency operations and two for observation and examinations. Their department usually sees upwards of 200 patients each day.

Both Dr. Mabula and Bahati have experienced a lack of specialization in the Tanzania healthcare system, which has made dealing with emergency situations in a timely matter much more difficult.

“The Tanzanian medical education system is different than that in the United States because our universities do not teach nurses to be prepared for the emergency department,” said Bahati. “They are only trained to be general nurses.”

The experience in western America has been nothing short of eventful for the Tanzanian natives. They were very grateful for the warm welcome that they received in Montana, ate bison, and even saw elk while touring in Colorado.

Dr. Mabula and Bahati’s relationship started well before their trip to the United States, though. Mabula handpicked Bahati for his high skill level and is trying to teach other nurses to start intervening as soon as a patient is presented, soon to be followed by a doctor arriving. Bahati himself has been taught how to do such and has learned how to put in a trachea tube for easier breathing during emergencies.

Their bond and sharing of medical knowledge was one thing that associates with SCL Health and St. Vincent Healthcare has recognized since the beginning.

As part of an opportunity that SCL Health offers for some of its leaders, Dr. Michael Bush, Chief Medical Officer, and BJ Gilmore, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Patient Care Services, both of St. Vincent, had the chance to engage firsthand with the travelers.

“I was exceptionally humbled by them,” said Dr. Bush. “Their approach, their understanding, and their acknowledgment of their challenges were incredible.”

He believes that the number one thing that the medical professionals from Tanzania will take away from St. Vincent and the rest of the SCL Health system is time management. The Arusha Lutheran Medical Center receives hundreds of patients each day, so staying on top of each situation is absolutely necessary.

Dr. Bush’s relationship with the Tanzanians extends to much more than just a learning opportunity. In 1988, Bush bought a large, Gregory Pack, which is a heavy-duty duffle bag that was designed to put several backpacks in for extensive travels. Even after many years of use, the duffle bag has remained in good condition. The same duffle bag that he, his wife, and children had used and enjoyed for quite some time was sent to Tanzania with Dr. Mabula and Bahati to support their mission and help transport some of the goods that they received while in America.

“It provides me with a real emotional connection to them,” said Dr. Bush. “I was in the presence of greatness with both of these men and I will forever be grateful.”

About a year ago, BJ Gilmore and St. Vincent’s President, Steve Loveless, visited Mabula and Bahati’s home range of Tanzania as members of an SCL Health Leadership Team. Gilmore spent time at ALMC, as well as a sister facility, made visits with the Hospice Nurses and visited the Plaster House. It was the first experience in her career that truly made her realize how blessed she is to be in such a health care system and how abundant blessings are.

“It was really a privilege to be able to have Dr. Mabula and Bahati in our organization,” said Gilmore. “We were able to share information, round up equipment, supplies and educational resources that are so needed in Tanzania. It was certainly a lesson in gratitude for our leaders and associates.”

About SCL Health

SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through eight hospitals, more than 180 physician clinics, home health, hospice, mental health, and safety-net services in Colorado and the Montana Wyoming region.