Toko and the Sanyu Team in Naguru
Explore the city with us and spend the day in the shoes of social worker Toko Friday Santiago.
Kampala is called the “City of Seven Hills” and by 2023, it has spread to encompass many hills, valleys and the Lake Victoria coastline. If asked to describe the capital city of Kampala, one may not know where to even start. There’s five main divisions and uncountable suburbs. “Old Kampala,” sits in the centre with towering buildings, markets, and public transportation hubs. Circling from the original city confines, you will find a variety of neighbourhoods, businesses, heavily guarded foreign embassies, slums, and developments like concert halls, sports areas, and shopping malls.
Today I want to review one area of interest: Naguru, on the eastern side of the city and surrounded by wealthier areas like Kololo and Ntinda. Naguru has some of the largest slums as well as the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital Naguru (or Naguru hospital for short).
Toko Friday Santiago, one of the social workers at PcERC, visits this hospital every week as part of his church’s ministry alongside Juliet Epietu (pictured to the left). He leads the church ministry “Sanyu team” to support the Naguru hospital social work staff, specifically in caring for those with a lot of distress and social problems as well as those with palliative care needs.
Toko shared with me the exact work that they do while in Naguru hospital. Every visit, they liaise with the hospital social workers and go to the different wards, asking the charge nurse or doctors if there are any referrals. Once meeting a patient, Toko can listen to and counsel them on their exact issue.
Physical needs are considered: do they need a cup or a plate so they can eat the food provided at the hospital? Do they have bathing soap? Do they have enough food to take with their medication? The Sanyu team runs clothing drives at their church to give to the patients, who often need a change of clothing or something warm to wear.
A key aspect of the work in Naguru hospital comes into play when a patient is referred by the clinical staff to Mulago hospital. As the PcERC team (including Toko Friday Santiago) is based in Mulago, the national specialised government hospital of Uganda, they can aptly assist the patient in the hospital transfer, linking them to the correct services and ensuring that they are seen by a specialist. As Toko described the referral processes from one hospital to another, it became evident that social workers take a huge role in patient care and management.
Palliative care for a social worker is not only holding the hand of a dying, nor assisting clinical staff to conduct family meetings. (Although these can be important parts of palliative care.) Social work involves the liaison of services, specialists, and healthcare systems; it involves both the “big picture” tasks as well as the “small ones” of fetching medication for a bedridden patient, or cleaning their cup and plate after a meal.
As Toko Friday Santiago counts his social work in Naguru hospital as part of the church ministry he leads, we can say that this is being “the hands and feet” to serve those in need.