An overview of the work of the Swiss Laos Hospital Project
Working Group Gynaecology & Obstetrics
Gynaecology and obstetrics was our first field of activity in Laos, established by our founder Dr. med. Urs Lauper in the year 1999. He started supporting the Mother and Newborn Hospital in Vientiane with the aim of reducing the high mortality rate of mothers and their babies. Our focus is on the training and further education of gynaecologists and midwives. In consultation with the Ministry of Health, our activities have gradually expanded from the capital to other hospitals throughout the country. Projects were carried out to improve hygiene, provide clean drinking water, promote the clean cutting of the umbilical cord and perform HIV screening. New priorities are the monitoring of high-risk pregnancies and the introduction of perinatal conferences together with neonatologists.
Working Group Neonatology
Our neonatologists are often on duty at the Mother and Newborn Hospital MNH in Vientiane: there they have a competent and committed partner in the head of the neonatal department, Dr. med. Vesaphong Phommady. Together, they have been able to build MNH into the country’s leading training hospital in the field of neotaology over the years. In addition, the neonatology team also regularly visits various other hospitals throughout the country in order to share medical knowledge, to hand over donations (e.g. incubators) or to support the modernisation of infrastructure in neonatal departments. Since 2003, our team under the direction of Dr. med. Marion Mönkhoff has thus established a total of seven neonatology departments.
Working Group General Medicine
Since 2008, Swiss general practitioners have been on four missions a year in the district hospital of Muang Kham (Xieng Khouang province). The focus is on the further training of doctors and nursing staff in general medicine – either during rounds at the patient’s bedside or through lectures. Swiss doctors also provide technical and financial support for the hospital laboratory. Since 2014, the group of general practitioners led by Dr. med. Elisabeth Bandi-Ott has also been regularly present at the Nong Het District Hospital.
Hospital Partnership Phonsavan-KSW
As part of the partnership between the Provincial Hospital Phonsavan and the Cantonal Hospital Winterthur KSW, KSW employees have been working on a regular basis in Laos since 2010. They contribute their medical, nursing or technical expertise and in return gain insights into the working and living conditions of their Laotian colleagues. This cooperation is coordinated by Verein Spitalpartnerschaft Phonsavan (Laos) & Kantonsspital Winterthur. Although this association is legally independent of our project, it is part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Lao Ministry of Health and the Swiss Laos Hospital Project. Both in Switzerland and Laos, the two associations work closely together, and the hospital partnership is also represented on the SLHP board.
Shipping of Materials
Every year the Swiss Laos Hospital Project sends a shipping container full of donations in kind to Laos. These include ultrasound equipment, operating tables, incubators, infusion pumps and monitors, as well as work clothing and consumables. These donations come from Swiss hospitals and medical practices. Our volunteers collect, sort and pack the material in Switzerland – and in Laos they ensure the sensible distribution of the donations in kind to the individual hospitals.
In the countryside, most Laotian women give birth at home. Due to the inadequate hygienic conditions, infections occur frequently, often with serious consequences. For this reason, the Swiss Laos Hospital Project has developed a delivery kit for the sterile cutting of the cord of newborns. It is produced in Laos and distributed free of charge to pregnant women throughout the country.
District hospitals in particular often lack trained specialists. Resident doctors with potential therefore receive scholarships from the Swiss Laos Hospital Project for a 3- to 6-month training course in Vientiane Capital. These scholarships are provided on the condition that the doctors return to their hospital after the training.
When Dr. med. Urs Lauper travelled to Laos for the first time in 1999, he had one main goal: He wanted to help prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to newborn. To this day, the Swiss Laos Hospital Project still promotes HIV tests and HIV therapies for pregnant women to protect their babies from infection with the dangerous virus.
Internships for Students
Since 2016 the Swiss Laos Hospital Project has been arranging one-month internships at the Mother and Child Hospital (MCH) in the Laotian capital Vientiane. The MCH is the most important training hospital in gynaecology, obstetrics and neonatology in Laos.
In addition to providing medical training, our project also aims to strengthen management in the Laotian hospitals. This way we want to contribute to better patient care and more efficient use of resources. In concrete terms, our specialists advise the Ministry of Health on questions of hospital management and accompany corresponding pilot projects in the hospitals. In addition, we regularly organise one-week courses for hospital managers in which we share knowledge and skills in hospital management and organisation. Since the introduction of these courses for managers in 2017, we have been able to train more than 400 members of middle and senior management.
Psychiatry is the latest field of activity of the Swiss Laos Hospital Project. In Laos, there is practically no medical and nursing care for the mentally ill. The Swiss Laos Hospital Project therefore supports a basic development project in psychiatry, which is being set up by a team of specialists in psychiatry and psychotherapy.