EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a first-hand account of On the PULSE’s trip to Shirati, Tanzania, how it came to be and videos documenting the journey.
I first learned about the Shirati/Susquehanna partnership in 2015, but it wasn’t until six months ago that producing a feature about the program was a possibility.
On the PULSE’s mission is to uncover hidden stories within our region and bring them to light. While this was a larger endeavor than we could normally cover, it still fit within the scope of our mission.
Over 12 years ago, Dr. Bwire Chirangi, medical director at the Shirati regional hospital, came to America and met Dr. Alex Nesbitt, who oversees Susquehanna Hospice and the UPMC Gatehouse. Chirangi told Nesbitt that many people with terminal or life-altering conditions were left helpless in Shirati due to a lack of funds and even transport to the hospital. He wanted to start a palliative care program at the hospital, and this service needed to be offered free of charge.
In a region without health insurance, paying for medical bills is a near impossibility for most people, but even more so for people with terminal illnesses or conditions that severely limit their ability to walk or maintain a steady job. Without care, these people would die.
Nesbitt, who specializes in hospice care throughout north central Pa., believed in the program that Chirangi wanted to start, and he assembled a team of locals to help raise funds.
Today the program is funded solely through donations for locals throughout the NorthCentral, Pennsylvania region. A full-time coordinator is employed at the hospital to manage the palliative care program, and three doctors dedicate a portion of their time to caring for the patients.
In addition, a team of between seven and 15 people volunteer their time throughout the region just to check in on patients throughout the villages and transport them to the hospital if needed.
None of this would be possible without the donations of the Shirati/Susquehanna partnership.
The purpose of On the PULSE’s trip to the region was to show the impact of local funds to the region of Shirati and allow us to do what we do best, and take a deep dive into the struggles of providing palliative care to the poor communities of Tanzania.
We will have a complete feature about our trip in the coming weeks.
Check out each leg of our journey: