Publish date: 25 October 2023

Stoma care in Tanzania? It’s in the bag

Picture of 5 people - staff from Northumbria and KCMC.

Specialist nurses from North Tyneside General Hospital have travelled across the world to share their expertise and provide a lifeline to communities.

Earlier this year, nurses from North Tyneside General Hospital set off to volunteer at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) to support the introduction of a brand-new stoma service - the first of its kind in Tanzania.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, and many people who have had a colostomy there struggle with the aftercare and maintenance of their stoma.

A stoma is a hole created in the abdomen, used to remove bodily waste into a collection bag after injury to the bowel or bladder.

Many patients were finding themselves bed-bound and in pain, with some choosing to travel many miles to the nearest hospital to seek help, where they were met with costly medical bills.

In terms of supplies, KCMC had no medical stoma products.Tanzanian nurses with Coloplast packs The hospital pharmacy could only provide adapted plastic pouches as no other specialist supplies are currently available in Tanzania.

The directors of KCMC reached out to Bright Northumbria (Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s registered charity), to ask for help.

Brenda Longstaff, head of Northumbria Healthcare’s Bright charity, said: “Our partnership with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre has supported the development of new health services for Tanzania for more than 20 years.

“Our main focus is sustainability, ensuring that with our training and support, Tanzanian healthcare professionals can make the new services their own. It’s a real privilege to be invited to be part of the development of the stoma service – the first of its kind in Tanzania.”

Stoma nurses Zoe and Natalie spent two weeks volunteering at KCMC working with new stoma nurses, excited to be playing an important part in introducing the service to Tanzania.

Zoe and Natalie took suitcases of donated products from Coloplast and were able to provide initial training and support to the nurses to develop a pathway of care for the stoma patients. In just a short period, as confidence grew, incredible improvements were made in the care of their patients.

“A patient who was Massai had been in hospital several weeks due to a leaking stoma,” Zoe said. “With the donated stoma bags and training, in two weeks the gentleman was able to go back home to his family.”

This life-changing work would not have been possible without the support of Coloplast and their kind donations – which are now safely packed into a shipping container with other donations and will be on their way soon.

Coloplast also reached out to stoma nurses across the region to collect donated stoma products which were returned by patients from across the region and cannot be re-allocated in the UK.

This donation will transform stoma services for patients in Tanzania, helping to tackle health inequalities and removing the financial burden for those struggling to pay for healthcare.

It also helps to protect the environment, as Northumbria Healthcare’s head of sustainability, Clare Winter, explains: “The stoma project hugely improves patient care and quality of life in Tanzania, increasing reuse of valuable healthcare provisions and reducing waste disposal. It is also in line with the ambitious Net Zero Northumbria 2040 target.”