Beginnings… Kisiizi Hospital is rooted in the 1920’s East Africa Revival. Even though the peak of the Revival was years before the founding of the Hospital, it informed its foundation, and still influences its ethos even today. It led to strong local Christian leadership with a strong local Church in the Kigezi area, coupled with close collaboration with the then Ruanda Mission, later to become re-united with Church Mission Society (CMS). Mission Hospitals were set up in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, including one in Kabale, started by Dr Leonard Sharp.
[The factory and valley, in 1958]
[View over the factory, in 1958]
The Second World War had an impact even here. The Colonial Government sought to diversify the economy as part of the Empire’s war effort. Among other things, this led to the construction by Italian POWs of a flax factory, using the power from the 90 foot Omukinyata Waterfalls, near the hamlet of Kisiizi. Due to staff shortages, the mission Hospital in Kabale, the local district town was closed. After the war, things reverse. The flax factory in Kisiizi closed and the mission sought to reopen the mission hospital in Kabale – but without success.
Getting Started The Church of Uganda believed that a mission hospital was an important way of bringing practical care to the people and as a means of showing God’s love. The Church requested the Government to take possession of the old flax factory as a hospital. This was agreed in 1958. The first doctor was to be Dr John Sharp, son of Leonard Sharp, a man who had grown up in the region and knew much of its ways. John and his wife Doreen arrived on 28th March 1958 and camped out one of the old factory buildings. On the morning of the first Monday following their arrival, there was a queue of 30 hoping to be seen. In 1959, the conversion of the abandoned factory into a hospital led to the creation of two wards, an operating theatre, a labour ward, sterilising rooms, doctors rooms, as well as stores, laundry, kitchens and wash rooms. It was not till March 1960 that the two wards, initially with 24 beds in all, were ready for in-patient work.
[Hospital in 1962]
Then, as now, key equipment came donated from UK: a Land Rover given by an individual, equipment from St Thomas’s, London, etc. Then as now, there were the joys of committed staff, and the disappointments arising from thefts of money and supplies. Then as now, there were spiritual highs (conversions, repentance) and lows (accusations and slander). Then as now there have been unexpected deaths. Dr John Sharp became ill in 1966 with what was later diagnosed as a brain tumour and subsequently died. Furthermore, his replacement, Dr Pat Walker was not long after killed in a car accident. Nevertheless, neither grievous death, nor threat from dictators have closed the Hospital.
Life Goes/Grows On What was nothing more than an abandoned factory is now a complex Hospital, with accompanying Primary School, School of Nursing, a hydro-power company and other projects. The Hospital never closed, even in the terrible Amin and Obote years. The then President Obote threatened to bomb the Hospital for supposedly caring for rebel fighters. When in 1985 Kampala was inaccessible because of the fighting on the main road at the Katonga Bridge, Kisiizi Hospital got its supplies and people through Kigali in Rwanda. In 1989, to meet the need of a growing number of national staff, the Hospital opened its own primary school. Later, in the face of the growing Aids crisis, it started its own child sponsorship programme, funded by the Dutch DORCAS programme in 1995 and Sponsor-An-Orphan in 1998. The Kisiizi Hospital School of Nursing began in that year too, thereby ensuring a regular supply of new nurses to the expanding Hospital, and to the region. Rehab and Mental Health Wards also began. And in 2008, our links with Countess of Chester Hospital and Chester University came to life.
[Doreen Sharp & President Museveni at the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2008 with a portrait of Dr. John Sharp]
It was a a sign of the esteem in which Kisiizi is held, that in 2008 on the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of the hosptial,not only the Diocesan Bishop attended but also the Archbishop, and a former patient – now the President of Uganda, attended the celebrations. We thank the skills and commitment of those who have gone before us, and the Hand of God that guided them.
Kisiizi Hospital Medical Superintendents:
- Dr John Sharp 1958-1966
- Dr Patricia Walker 1966
- Dr Jack Symonds 1966-1967
- Dr John Davies 1967-1977
- Dr Kevin Vaughan 1977-1986
- Dr Amos Twinamasiko 1986-1988
- Dr Edward Turitwenka 1988-1989
- Dr Ian Spillman 1989-1993
- Dr Peter Wood 1993-1996
- Dr Lionel Mills 1996-2000
- Dr Peter Winfrey 2000-2003
- Dr Tonny Tumwesigye 2003- 2012
- Dr Ian Spillman 2012 –