Hospital History

History of Rugarama Hospital

At a Glance.

The need for a Church founded not for profit Health Centre was pioneered by the Late Bishop Festo Kivengere, he then invited Sister Jenny Tustain from U.K, who started and became the first In-Charge of the Health Centre II up on Rugarama Hill Next the Bishop’s office, 25 years ago. She led the health centre for 16 years leaving it at a Health Centre III level, at that level the Health Centre got the first Doctor In-Charge Dr Rachelle Sanderson (April 2000) also from U.K, who led for 6 years and left it at Health Centre IV level; during her time the Centre was re-located to the current location at the foot of Rugarama Hill in 2002/3, she was succeeded by Dr Christoph Menzel from Germany Who led for three years. In 2007 the Health Centre was accredited Hospital Status. Currently the Hospital is led by the first Ugandan In-Charge Dr Gilbert A. Mateeka, a native of the area, who has been serving at the hospital since 2006.


Detailed History.

It was in January 1983 that Rugarama Health Centre opened on Rugarama Hill. This was following the request by the Late Bishop Festo Kivengere to a British Nurse Sister Jenny Tustian to come and offer health services to the many poor people in the Diocese of Kigezi.

Bishop Festo Kivengyere

The Health unit would become one of the first facilities in the Diocese for many people to access Health services. Initially the services offered were very basic as the staffing and the infrastructure were; as per government standards, it was a Health Centre Level II. It was not long before patient turn-up and demand for services was too much for the facilities in place. There was need for more services and infrastructural development. Despite this, and in an effort to reach more poor people, the health Unit had to run several out reach centres around the Diocese.

Sister Jenny Tustian- Founder of Rugarama Hospital.

Visiting doctors helped for some time and a structure was constructed on top of the hill next to the Diocesan Offices but it was not well located for sick patients that had to climb up the steep hill to access it. Sister Jenny Tustian served as the Unit in-charge until July 2000, when she had to retire and return to UK.

Rugarama Health Centre III in 2000

At that time, the Health Centre had already a 46 in patient bed capacity. It had nearly 30 medical and non-medical staff. Just before her departure the Health Centre was awarded a grant from Truro Church Virginia (USA) to build a purpose building at the base of Rugarama Hill.

The Bishop and the Health Centre Management Committee asked Dr Rachelle Sanderson, who was CMS mission partner from U.K., to be in charge of the Centre and she kindly accepted while she originally had come to support her husband in running projects against poverty in the Diocese. They broke the ground down at the bottom of Rugarama Hill on 1st December 2000 to start the single storey Eye Centre on a new site, which had been bought by Kigezi Diocese in 1992 – earmarked for building a Diocesan Hospital. In April 2001 another proposal for further building work was accepted by Lions International that would incorporate General Medical work along with the expanded Eye Department. Work restarted around September 2001 and the Main building was completed in September 2002 and the Eye Department shifted from its prior location (a small residential house).

Dr Rachelle with Her Husband Tom Sanderson

With the completion of the multipurpose building by December 2002 most of the eye and medical services were shifted from the structure on top of the hill to the new site at the bottom of the hill. With a huge influx of patients, the beds were rapidly filled up leaving no room for the Paediatric or Maternity departments – they remained at the old Clinic at the top of the hill. However, running two sites proved difficult and there was much staff tension and teething problems with running the new site. Fundraising was started again for building another building to house the Paediatric and Maternity Departments behind the new Main building. Another grant proposal to Lions Club International was successful, providing 75% of the building costs and the then Archbishop of Uganda  laid the foundation stone for this project in August 2003 which was subsequently opened to the public on 23rd December 2003.

During that period two more mission partners from CMS arrived, Dr Chris and Mrs Polly Barton, who were asked to improve dental services in the District but decided to be based for that work in Rugarama Health Centre. Thanks to their dedicated contributions a new quality of dental services started to grow within a few years from almost nothing to the widely known current Dental Centre, which also started to offer dental services for the outside community. Mrs Polly Barton became the Outreach Coordinator of Rugarama Health Centre taking on increasing responsibility for more and more rural Out reach Centres.

Fundraising further continued and with the support of Lions Club International and other well-wishers a double storey staff block with 4 large flats for senior staff was build and opened in May 2004. More funds arrived from a church in UK and a playroom was built for the Malnourished children and other child inpatients.

In 2005, due to the great demand in dental services and the need for an X-ray and scanning unit, a new block was commenced – Dental and Xray block. The Lions Clubs International again awarded a substantial grant to cover 75% of the costs, which included some equipment and a small staff duplex (2 flats) for senior and junior nursing staff. Work started on 3rd Jan 2005 and completed quickly in June 2005 (staff houses were finished half year later).

In the same months, the Ministry of Health recognised the contribution of the Health Centre to the well being of the Community and granted an upgrade the Centre to Health Centre IV status (Min-hospital).  Dr Rachelle Sanderson served as Unit in-Charge until June 2005.


In March 2005 Bishop George. Katwesigye, invited Dr Christoph Menzel from a German Mission Organisation “Christian Services International (CSI)”Germany  to come and work with Rugarama Health Centre as Unit In-charge.  Dr Menzel and his wife Britta accepted and joined the the Health Unit in the same Month that Dr. Rachelle left.


In a period of about the right equipment and staff were in place and the X-ray Department was functional and ready to offer  services to the public in May 2006. In February 2006 the first Ugandan Medical Officer, Dr Gilbert Arinaitwe Mateeka joined the team of Rugarama Health Centre and soon after, in March 2006, the volunteer worker from CMS, Dr Mairi Crawford and her husband engineer Mr Laurence Phin, joined as well for the period of 2 years; at the same time Dr Emily Norman with her husband Dave from Australia were around for 6 Months.  Rugarama Health Centre grew during that period in buildings, services and staffing, which once again improved on services for In and Out patients. Latter Dr Christian & Mrs Isa Geherdt from Germany came just after the departure of Dr Menzel and stayed for 2 years; their arrival was in God’s timing as there was a vacuum after the departure of all other mission partners, Dr Christian was instrumental in the clinical section as his wife a social worker was involved in community work and during her time the Hospital developed a newsletter. Much latter in September 2010, Dr Aaron Morrow and his wife Wendy Morrow together with their Children Micah, Emmashae and Mallory joined the team at the hospital this family’s contribution to the Hospital in the Clinical aspect and fundraising drives will always be memorable,   Most of these friends have continued to support the Hospital in different ways over the years. God bless them.


In the second half of 2006 an application was submitted to LCIF for a new building structure, a new dedicated Paediatric and Physiotherapy Unit.


Dr Christoph Menzel and family served at the Unit for three years and return to Germany in April 2008. In the same year 2008, the Unit was granted Hospital Status by Ministry Of Health. Since then, Dr Gilbert A. Mateeka has been the Medical Superintendent.

With the accreditation to Hospital Status there was a challenge to perform to Hospital standards. This among others included increasing in-patient bed capacity and provision of surgical services. Several fundraising drives were conducted among  friends and Churches in the US, UK, Australia and Germany; on 12 May 2010 the Diocesan Bishop among other things dedicated and Commission and  Ambulance which was bought at Cost of 104 Million UGx, an Ultra Sound scan bought at 13 Million UGx and the standby generator bought at 19.6 Million UGx. The Bishop also commissioned the new completed Surgical and Maternity ward which had been largely funded by LCIF.  Direct Relief International donated to the Hospital a consignment of theatre equipment worth over 40 million in 2010/11 with this in place the  hospital started providing surgical services in March 2011.


Again with the help of the Hospital friends, in 2012, an X ray bought at 45 Million UGx was commissioned by the Diocesan Secretary.

In 2009 an idea was birthed to start a nursing School and on to On 22nd December 2013, the School was officially opened and commissioned by the Diocesan Bishop- the Rt Rev Bishop George Katwesigye. We thank God for these achievements, and trust him for provision for the current and future needs.


The humble begin and the steady growth remind us of the illustration of the Kingdom of God by Jesus- the mustard seed, which grew into a big tree and the birds found room for nests. This fits right in the vision of the Hospital which is “A Centre of Excellence, Continuously Able to Offer Comprehensive Health Services so that they may have better life to the Glory of God.”


“Job 8 :7  Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”


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