Bernard Umuntoniwase, a U.S.-trained burn surgeon and a general surgeon at Kibogora Hospital says there is a need to have more burn units in hospitals so as to increase access to high-quality treatment services for burn patients in Rwanda.
Currently, the country has a few specialised units for treating burns including one at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) and another one at Kanombe Military Hospital where all patients with severe burn injuries are referred to.
“We are in a fast-growing economy, we can have house fires and burns from hot liquids. With gas cookers, electronic equipment used on a daily basis that can cause accidents, we need more equipment and space for treating burns,” he said.
Umutoniwase added that when he realised the gap, he grew an interest to gain more skills in burn surgery and that’s how he travelled abroad for more studies and specialisation.
With regards to burn treatment equipment at Kibogora Hospital, Umutoniwase said that there is going to be a reduction of burn patients transferred to Kigali.
Burn treatment can even take a year depending on how severe it was since there has to be a skin graft (the growing skin used to treat a burnt body part) to heal.
He said that it is not easy but at least there were burn units in district hospitals so that patients don’t have to travel far away to come to get treatment in Kigali.
Umutoniwase said that he is going to train his team as the other doctors do when they learn something new, adding that the country has no burn surgeons, they are all general surgeons.
The country has five plastic surgeons for now who are helping burn patients.
Umutoniwase had first gone to the University of Colorado Hospital in 2019 to specialise as a general surgeon. When he found out about the hospital’s specialised burn centre, one of just 63 American Burn Association-verified centres, he was eager to return and learn.