At the beginning of early 20th Century, the coming of Comboni Missionaries led by Msgr Antonio Vignato (Verona Father) in Kitgum for the work of evangelization in 1915 brought many changes to the indigenous people of Kitgum. Their work was further enhanced by the arrival of Comboni Sisters in 1920 in the persons of: Sr. Benedetta Colombo (Superior), Sr. DosolinaGamaretto, Sr. Primina Colombo, Sr. M. GiuseppaCarminati, Sr. RaffaellaConsolaro and Sr. Carla Troenzi.
These Sisters quickly learned the language of indigenous people which enabled them to teach the Catechumens, school pupils and helped them in visiting the people in villages around the mission. This brought an understanding between them and the indigenous people and thus concern for the sick.
On the 16th November 1925, Sr. AmaliaLonardi one of the first five Sisters who came to Uganda in 1918, came and joined the Sisters' community of Kitgum and she started aclinic under the verandah of the sisters home. Despite the presence of this clinic in Sisters' home, Sr. Amalia continued to visit the sick in the villages around the mission. Her mobilization within the villages brought many sick people to get treatment. During that time, most of the people were suffering from Leprosy. SisterAmalia had the opportunity of getting "Anti-lepro" drug from her benefactor which reduced the pain sick were undergoing. In 1931, Sr. AmaliaLonardi went to Italy and she was replaced by Sr. UdillaZuccoto.
On the 23rd December 1938, Sr. SecondinaChito arrived in Kitgum joining the other sisters in their apostolate and started a small dispensary under the big "Mango Tree" in the middle of sisters' compound planted by mother Carla in 1920 and this mango tree still exists up to now. This dispensary continued up to the internment (imprisonment) of missionary from June 1940 up to Dec 1941 due to the 2nd World War.
Verona Fathers and Sisters resumed their work of evangelization and development after this period of suffering. They consulted the local community who were by then occupying the present place of St. Joseph's Hospital to give them the land for development. The community willingly accepted and evacuated the place to meet the felt need. To evacuate means "Nyiki" in Luo. That is why the neighboring village bordering this hospital from South up to Western part is called "Nyiki-nyiki Village".
Immediately the Parish Priest of Kitgum mission in the person of Rev Fr. Vincent Pellegrinibuilt a small block in the present place of Medical ward of St. Joseph's Hospital for a dispensary near Tamarind Tree (iteCwaa) which provided very good shade for patients. This dispensary block up to know exits but later on became an isolation room for the patients with serious infectious diseases.
Sr. LiduinaVavassori replaced Sr. Secondina in 1951. By 1952 the dispensary had been very much enlarged, enabling her to receive good number of patients. Government hospital was already in existence since 1934 where Sr. Liduina with other sisters and some of the school girls used to go and visit the sick there. The visitation of the sick did not only stop in government hospital but extended to various Chapels at least once a month to the patients who were unable to come either in Kitgum Mission or Government hospital to get health services. The outreach areas were Padibe, Lokung, Madi-Opei, Agoro, Palabek, Atanga, Pajule, and Poranga.
On the 17th February 1953, Sr. Maria Rosa Magri took over from Sr. LiduinaVavassori in the dispensary and after consultation with the Bishop of Gulu diocese Msgr. John Baptist Cesana, Maternity home was built following his visit to Kitgum Missionon the 20th May 1954.
Sr. Maria Rosa did not work alone in Maternity department but was accompanied by a midwife M. EufrasiaNanyonga on the 18th August 1954 from Kampala. During this time, the extension of maternity home was in progress and the prettification of the compound was also going on by planting trees and designing paths. The building of maternity block finished and it had 22 beds with many cribs, mattresses, bed sheets and blankets. The water tank was installed in the building to provide water in the delivery room and the department as well.
Alongside with them, there was a cleaner known as TherezaLamunu who worked in the health unit. Her home of origin is Mucwini Sub-county in Okol Parish.
On the 23rd May 1955, the health unit of St. Joseph's received very important visitors – the provincial Dr. Otwickwith Dr. Barberton medical officer of Gulu hospital whose advice encouraged the doctors inKitgum Government hospital to work in partnership with staff of this health unit especially when it comes to difficult cases. They were very much attracted by good services offered, nice equipment in the health unit and the high number of birth rates.
In the same year December 1955, Sr. LinaSusoLeutfridaarrived as a helper of Sr. Maria Rosa in maternity department and worked as midwifery till 1970 with love and care for pregnant mothers; she was followed by Sr. Ida Lucia Fantato.
This health unit had been dedicated to St. Joseph as Spiritual guidance and care for the patients as Joseph had been caring for Mary and Baby Jesus.
During their time, Sudanese Refugees who were in Uganda especially in Kitgum Mission since 1955 had very good opportunity of benefiting from free treatment which brought tension between them and the local community but the missionaries made the local community understand the difference between them and the Sudanese refugees who were there like beggars.
On the 28th Feb 1957, the extension of the eastern part of maternity ward to accommodate the expectant mothers started where a midwife Sr. LiciniaBinettoqualified from London came to replace Sr. Maria Rosa while she was on holidays. There was improvement in record of delivery in maternity where by the health unit experienced more than 100 deliveries per year.
There were three blocks for the health centre; the block under Tamarind tree (iteeCwaa) which is the present block for Medical ward was partly dispensary and partly maternity. The present Pharmacy was the ward for both maternity cases and Children ward while the present administration block was residence for nurses. The number of buildings gradually increased and the health centre developed into hospital.
From 1954 to 1959 there was rapid progress in infrastructures such as the first theatre which was located in the present place of laboratory in which operations were done, and the number of beds in different wards namely Maternity and Children Ward were increased. The new private wing of Children ward was used for isolation cases of infectious diseases.
This development attracted many people from within and outside Kitgum district to receive medical services from this health unit. During this time Dr. Corti and his wife Lucille used to come for minor operations like Hernia and other interventions. This situation prompted the Comboni missionaries particularly Rev. Fr. Angelo Romano to apply to the government to upgrade this health unit to a hospital.
During these years of rapid progress, Brother AugustinoStocco built residence for expatriate at Comboni missionary place behind the Kitgum Mission Church, and also elevated the behind part of the church. Other development like babies' homes was also put to carter for orphans.
Having assessed and found that St. Joseph's health centre met the requirements for a hospital, the Ministry of Health without delay upgraded St. Joseph's health centre into Hospital in January1960 with capacity beds of more than 100 when Rev. Fr. Romano Angelo was a Parish Priest of Kitgum Mission.
St. Joseph's Hospital started working as a Hospital in January 1960 with the first Italian doctor called Dr. Lai Giovanninowho came with his wife Silvana and a child. He was a very good surgeon and able doctor who worked in the hospital till 1964.There were some doctors from government hospital who worked in collaboration with Dr. Lai during that time. He handed over the work to Dr. Luigi Paulinoby Christmas time in 1964. Another doctor in the person of AbertOlivoni joined him in 1967.
While in the Laboratory, Sr. RomildeSpinato came to replace Sr. Francesca Confalonieri in Sept 1971.
By 27th Sept 1971, Dr. Rev. Fr. Albert Manuel Grau, a Comboni missionary from Spain, became the first Medical Superintendent for this hospital. With the heart of love and mercy for people, he worked tirelessly to uplift the standard of this hospital and put up the present theatre since he was a surgeon. At all times and under all circumstances, the hospital depended entirely on the mission financially, materially and on personnel.
Other doctors who worked together with Dr. Grau Albert Manuel were Dr. Enrico Guffanti, Dr. Todeshi, Dr. Sbrighi and Dr. Chiara Mezzalira, etc.
The arrival of Sr. Angela Sesana in Sept 1972 brought a lot of improvement in children ward and in other wards; there were other sisters who did the same – Adults' Ward was ran by Sr. M. RomildeSpinato,Orphanage by Sr. Domenicadella Riva and Dispensary by Sr. Mary Paul Lonergan.
Apart from the doctors, Sr. Mary Silvia Pisetta had been the first matron in St. Joseph's Hospital in Sept 1972. Her office was first located in the container which is now the small store.Others matrons that worked after her in order of appearance are:
• Sr. Reginella Fualal
• Sr. Terezina
• Sr. BibianaAnena
• Sr. Hellen Akumu
• Sr. Liberatta Amito
• Sr. Natalina Obicaro
• Sr. HellenAkumu
• Sr. Elizabeth Candiru
• Sr. Lilly Amito – The current Matron.
Due to new ecclesial missionary attitude towards the new local Churches in 1971, as recommended by the II Vatican Council, it was felt that a step had to be taken and a new stage in the history of the hospital initiated i.e. to hand over to Africans the responsibilities for all the activities of the hospital. This recommendation came in following the motto of St. Daniel Comboni, "Save Africa with Africans".
In 1973, the concrete step for the recommendation of the II Vatican Council was taken, when all the responsibilities for running the hospital were taken over by the African Sisters of the diocesan congregation of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, the direction and administration of this hospital is in the hand of Archbishop of Gulu Catholic Archdiocese.
The arrival of brother Elio in the late 1970s brought about improvement in infrastructures like putting up X-Ray department and the relevant facilities associated to it, 3 blocks for nurses, 1 big block for Children ward, and provision of borehole which now have been changed to tap water.
Around 1980s, brother Elio brought milling machine for sunflower oil in the mission and he encouraged the local communities to grow sunflower as one of their cash crops by availing sunflower seeds in all the neighboring parishes e.g Madi-opei, Padibe, Palabek, Namokora, and other parishes in Pader district. This milling of sunflower oil is still going on up to now.
Other Medical superintendents who worked after Dr. Grau are:
1. Dr. Filippo Cantia 1982 – 1987
2. Dr. Mauro Andreata 1988 – 1990
3. Dr. Adolf Diefenhardt 1990 – 1995
4. Dr. Theresa Pellio 1996 – 2002
5. Dr. Lawrene Ojom – The former Medical Superintendent 2003 – 2013
6. Dr. Atim Pamela – The current Medical Superintendent 2013 to date
Below are some of the contributions of the above mentioned Medical Superintendents to the hospital.
FilippoCiantia had been the medical superintendent from November 1982 up to February 1987 under AVSI an International NGO. He worked in this hospital during the over throw of the Government of Uganda in 1986 by President YuweriKagutaMusevini. Dr. Filippo kept the hospital operational though there was war. He lobbied the support from Italian Government to improve on this hospital and put 2 blocks of staff quarter and improved on laboratory.
During his time, he worked with Dr. Luciana his wife and Dr. Angelo Manini. In the late 1987, he became the Kitgum District Medical officer.
The presence of Dr. Adolf Diefanhardt from1990 to1995 as a medical superintendentregistered a lot of successes pertaining the hospital development in the following areas:
Extension of the present administration block and medical ward which was for A' clinic and is now the duty room.
Putting up doctors' quarters, Chapel in central part of the hospital, training centre, Nutrition Unit commonly known as "Kampala" by the local community that is the place where malnourished children are fed to improve their health condition, Workshop (Technical department), Counseling centre, Mobile clinic that provided medical services to the people at the grass root level, St. Joseph's Town clinic, Caremed, big generator, Rice Milling machine, piggery, Poultry, 2 lorries, 2 Land cruisers, 4 Motor cycles and bicycles for outreach activities.
The need for a secretary was felt in 1991 when Miss Lillian Arach was appointed as the first secretary of the hospital and later followed by FilderAber, AmonoHellen Grace and Florence KettyOyella the current secretary.
Not only was the secretary office introduced by Dr. Adolf in the hospital but also the Records Office. This office was held by Mr. ConstantinoKoloOdong in 1991 and the purpose is for proper record keeping, planning and improvement in the performance of the hospital.
On the other hand in the same year, logistics office started in the hospital and was first occupied by Mr. Odong John Bosco helping in purchasing hospital items.
Finally, another important office was the accounts office which was meant to improve financial management of the health unit. In 1993, Mr. Oloya Alex was employed as the first accountant and the office was first located in the small room of maternity ward which was later shifted to the present personnel office and re-organization of offices was done after extension of administration block.
Dr. Theresa Pelliowas a medical superintendent from 1996 up to 2002 and made further improvement in the management of human resource by creating the office of HospitalAdministrator and Human Resource Officer.
The office of Hospital Administrator was created in 1997 and it was first occupied by Sr. JemaDhugira, there after came Mr. TP Odong, Mr. Oloya Alex and Mr. Ochola Robert currently holding the office. The presence of administrator's office in the hospital made the management of material, finance and human resource easier compared to the past few years.
In the Personnel section for the management of Human Resource, MsOyella Doris has been employedsince 2003 to handle staff data and welfare of the employees.
Dr. Lawrence Ojom the former Medical Superintendent came in 2003 when Northern Uganda insurgency was at the climax where the nearby communities came to take refuge in the hospital at night for the fear of rebels' atrocities. This was a very tough moment for the hospital, with problems of sanitation as the numbers of people coming to take refuge in the hospital were alarmingly increasing daily. However, other NGOs came in to support the night commuters by erecting shelters and provision of blankets.
During this time in 2004, Dr. Lawrence welcomed the idea of Italian doctor who worked in this hospital called Dr. Salandini Giorgio with his wife Maria Carla Ossola commonly known as Pupa, who came with initiative of starting a Library in the hospital to help Patients and night commuters with books; the night commuters get access to this books when they come to take refuge in the hospital. This Library has become a department in the hospital equipped with various kinds of books which help the hospital staff, medical students and the public (mostly secondary, university students and teachers) to search for knowledge from the library. It has been officially opened in 2006 by His Grace Archbishop John Baptist Odama as a public libraryand managed by Mr. Ochola Denis Alata since 2004.
Other development registered during the time of Dr. Lawrence were: construction of 2 residential blocks for Clinical Officers, 3 new blocks for nurses, 2 blocks in the former Nutrition Unit, 1 block for Anti-natal, a block in the new Nutrition Unit, private block in medical ward, private wing for children ward and a new generator block.
There has been extension of Theatre, Laboratory block, Maternity ward, surgical ward, OPD and renovation of other old blocks in the hospital.
Dr. Lawrence has been working with Sr. Matrons like Sr. Hellen Akumu, Sr. Elisabeth Candiru and currently Sr. Liberata Amito.
Dr. Atim Pamela the current Medical Superintendent who came in 2013 to date