Girl with toddler in Laos

Annual Report 2020

 

General

The Swiss Laos Hospital Project association aims to provide humanitarian, medical and financial support to hospitals, medical staff and patients in Laos.

Corona Pandemic

In the year under review, which was dominated by the Corona virus, many things were different from prior years. After March 2020, travel to Laos was no longer possible, resulting in almost exclusively digital communication both with Laos and among the SLHP members in Switzerland. The annual meeting (June 9, 2020) was held online for the first time.

Serious shortages of different medications and daily consumables occurred in the hospitals that we are supporting, so we used a larger part of the budget to remedy this. This helped to keep the hospitals functioning under difficult conditions.

Despite these constraints, emergency medical aid was provided, and several construction projects moved forward. This was only possible because Regine Wehrle, doctor and wife of the German ambassador, competently and effectively represented our concerns in Laos. She deserves much appreciation for this outstanding commitment.

Board of Directors

Members of the board of Directors include Elisabeth Bandi-Ott (General Practitioners), Hans Ulrich Bucher (President), Cornelia Gawenda (Finance), Jacques Gubler (KSW-Phonsavan), Marion Mönkhoff (Vice-President; Neonatology), Claudia Reichmuth (Neonatology, Nursing), Martin Sauter (IT) and Pierre Villars (Gynaecology and Obstetrics). We met in regular sessions on January 13 and September 22, 2020 and participated in seven video conferences. Our frequent interaction made it possible to react quickly to the Corona pandemic and other natural disasters.

Members

On 31.12.2020 the association had 134 members, including 3 honorary members (Urs Lauper, Aline Kundig and Peter Neumann) and 14 student members. There were 5 new members and 6 resignations during the year.

Volunteer assignments

In the first quarter, Pascale Widmer and Claudia Hofer worked in Sam Neua, Claudia Reichmuth and Marion Mönkhoff in Vientiane. From KSW, 19 people worked in Phonsavan. All volunteers were able to fly back to Switzerland at the end of March, shortly before the borders were closed and the flights cancelled. After that, there were no more volunteers from Switzerland in Laos.

20th Anniversary

To celebrate the founding of SLHP as an association in 2000, an anniversary publication with many illustrations was printed and distributed to all association members and patrons.

An anniversary celebration planned at the Erlengut in Erlenbach had to be postponed to 4. 9. 2021 due to the Corona pandemic.

Concert with violin and piano

To celebrate our 20th anniversary, a benefit concert was held on 8 January in the Reformed Church of Zurich-Oberstrass. Maristella Patuzzi played pieces by Brahms, Saint Saëns, Ernst and de Sarate on an antique violin. She was accompanied on the grand piano by her father.

Public Relations

Our main communication channel is the website www.swisslaos.ch. This recorded a total of 6’000 visits in 2020 (previous year 5’800). Large parts of the website have now been translated into English. We also qualified for the „Google Ad Grants“ programme, which allows us to place ads in Google Search free of charge. In addition, we report on current events on Facebook and Instagram, somewhat less on LinkedIn. We sent out four electronic newsletters to 375 subscribers (previous year 350) and a printed newsletter to 1’338 addresses in autumn 2020, together with the anniversary brochure.

A benefit concert took place on 11.1.2020 in the Reformed Church Zurich-Oberstrass. Maristella Patuzzi enthralled the audience with her antique violin, accompanied by her father on the grand piano.

The film „Typically Laotian“ made by Markus Abegg was translated into English.

Two hundred and fifty copies of the traditional photo calendar 2021 were produced.

Projects

HIV prevention

Within the framework of this project financed by the Lottery Fund, a total of 9’298 HIV tests were carried out in 2020 (previous year: 4’555), of which 8’859 were carried out on pregnant women (previous year: 4’047). 52 (previous year: 18) of these tests were positive, of which 33 (previous year:12) were in pregnant women. The increase in tests and positive results was due to the fact that fewer women went to give birth in nearby Thailand because of the border closure. The HIV-positive persons were referred to an HIV centre for free treatment. HIV-positive mothers with babies were also provided with free powdered milk, as they are not allowed to breastfeed, to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child.

Birth kits

This project, funded by the Lottery Fund, enables safe and clean umbilical cord care, especially for home births. In 2020, 30’000 sterile delivery kits were produced in Laos and distributed to hospitals and health centres throughout the country.

Follow-up of former preterm infants

In this project, preterm infants <35 weeks of gestation are followed up until the age of two using an internationally standardised developmental test. Health status, growth and development are examined, and all necessary vaccinations and therapies are administered.

Surgery at Nong Het District Hospital

First Caesarean section on 30.12.2020 in the new operating theatre in Nong Het.

Construction projects

Luang Namtha: In November, we signed a contract for the renovation of two operating theatres including the post-operative area, a sterilisation room and an office for nurses and doctors.

Muang Kham: In the hospital, which had already been renovated with our support, a washing machine was purchased with a donation from Foundation Anthropos. In addition, a school was renovated, and toilets refurbished.

Nong Het: In this hospital, which is regularly visited by the General Practitioner group, an operating theatre was set up with the financial support of our foundation.

Savannakhet: At the provincial hospital, plans were drawn up and a cost estimate was proposed for the construction of a delivery department, a maternity ward, and a neonatology department. Thanks to the financial support of the Claus Cramer Foundation, construction could begin in December 2020.

Protective maerial against the Corona virus

With a special grant, we supported the purchase of protective material to combat the Corona pandemic.

Emergency aid

Corona pandemic: Few Covid-19 positive patients have been recorded in Laos. However, the number of unreported cases is likely to be higher, as few tests have been administered. We provided know-how to combat the pandemic and a grant of CHF 5’000 to purchase protective material such as face masks and aprons, in addition to soap and detergent.

Flood disaster in Savannakhet: We provided financial aid for the victims of a flood in October. With this, Dr Phommady from MNH was able to procure blankets, clothes and food and distribute them locally.

Scholarships for further education and training

A Pediatrician from Mother Newborn Hospital received a scholarship for a two-year training course in neonatology at Khon Kaen University in Thailand.

The GP group awarded scholarships to four Lao doctors and two nurses for further training of 6 months and 1 year respectively in the capital Vientiane. Contributions were also made to English and IT courses.

Exchange programme for students

In 2020, no Swiss students were able to complete an internship in Vientiane due to the Corona pandemic. There is a long list of interested applicants.

Gynaecology/Obstetrics

In the Mother Newborn Hospital (MNH) a total of 7’333 (previous year 7’073) births were recorded, of which 2’313 (2’257) were by Caesarean section. In the Neonatology Department, 897 (previous year 881) newborns were hospitalised.

Dr U. Kullmer (volunteer gynaecologist and obstetrician) worked at MNH until 7.1.2020, where he introduced a weekly perinatal conference and hygiene standards in the operating theatre.

Neonatology

During the shortened stay at MNH in March, Marion Mönkhoff and Claudia Reichmuth organised the first perinatal workshop for doctors and nurses of obstetric and newborn care departments, including a review of the follow-up program for premature babies. During the rest of the year, they remained in active electronic contact with their Lao colleagues to solve medical and organisational problems.

General Practitioners

Planned on-site missions were replaced by video conferences to present cases and discuss guidelines. Although Laotians show an increasing interest in this form of professional training, it is not a complete substitute for on-site teaching.

Under the leadership of Alphons Schnyder, the family doctors analysed their work at a workshop and adapted their outreach strategy.

KSW–Phonsavan

Since 2010, the Winterthur Cantonal Hospital (KSW) has maintained an independent partnership with the Provincial Hospital in Phonsavan in order to exchange knowledge, skills and experience in various hospital activities.

Course participants at Mahosot Hospital

Course on Psychosis and Drug Abuse from 12-14 February at Mahasot Hospital, initiated by Swiss psychiatrists Drs. Emilio Bolla, Rafael Traber and Toni Berthel.

Training in hospital management

The courses planned by Dr. Alphons Schnyder in close cooperation with the Lao Ministry of Health had to be cancelled due to the Corona pandemic. However, the hospital autonomy project in three pilot hospitals is to be continued in 2021.

Equipment and material

Another large container with medical material and equipment arrived in Laos just prior to the lock-down. This was unloaded by our helpers on site and the contents distributed to the various hospitals. Among the supplies were 6’000 surgical face masks, which were most welcome as protection against the Corona virus.

Boy with lung malformation and his mother

A boy with a lung malformation after successful surgery.

Supporting individual patients

A boy with a congenital lung malformation was transported to Hanoi and successfully operated on. This overland transport across closed borders was only possible thanks to an extraordinary effort of several SLHP members and Regine Wehrle, who contributed her medical and diplomatic expertise (see report on Facebook).

A young woman was financed for the surgical correction of a heart defect. Because an artificial valve was implanted, constant anticoagulation was necessary, posing a particular challenge for follow-up care.

Based on this experience, criteria for the assumption of treatment costs for individual patients were formulated.

Acknowledgements

In the year under review, we found new ways to make significant progress in Laos despite the Corona pandemic. This was only possible thanks to the unpaid commitment of many volunteers and the support of numerous sponsors.

On behalf of the Laotian government and people, I would like to thank them all very much.

 

2 February 2021

Hans Ulrich Bucher

Prof. em. Hans Ulrich Bucher, President

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