St. Joseph’s Hospital, Kitovu, is located in Masaka town, Uganda, about 140km from the capital Kampala. It is a 248 bed Mission Hospital, operating under the umbrella organization of the Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau.
Like many Mission Hospitals, Kitovu was started by a Catholic Nursing Order in the early 20th century and Kitovu still has an Irish Nun at the hospital.
Sister Maura Lynch joined a Catholic Nursing Order as a teenager and decided that she would like to become a doctor. Following her graduation from medical school, Sister Maura specialised as a gynaecologist and has devoted her life to the care of women in Africa, first in Angola and then in Uganda.
In Uganda, as in other poor countries, many women deliver at home or far from any medical help. If a woman develops obstruction in labour she needs an emergency caesarean section. If this can’t be done she may die of a ruptured uterus or deliver a stillbirth after days of agony in labour. If this were not enough she may find that she has no control of her bladder or even her bowel. The prolonged pressure of the baby’s head against the bony pelvis wears a hole between the bladder and vagina and sometimes the rectum. This is called a vesico-vaginal fistula. This will never heal, so she will be incontinent for life unless she can find someone to perform a surgical repair.
Women with this condition will visit any hospital they can but rarely find anyone who can help so they return home to a life of misery and rejection. They also fear the fees that have to be charged by the voluntary hospitals or private surgeons. They are usually abandoned by their husbands and are often treated as outcasts by their families. They then give up all hope of being cured.
Sister Maura has specialised in the treatment of vesico-vaginal fistula at Kitovu. In 2013, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of England awarded Sister Maura Lynch an Honorary Fellowship for the work she has done in Kitovu.