Thriving in the face of tragedy

Saturday October 5 2019

Elizabeth Mayanja started out at Victoria

Elizabeth Mayanja started out at Victoria Medical Centre after the passing of Dr George William Ddamulira Mayanja, her husband.  

By Joan Salmon

Elizabeth Mayanja started out at Victoria Medical Centre after the passing of Dr George William Ddamulira Mayanja, her husband.
He was a medical doctor and proprietor of the health facility but when he passed away in 2012, she had to take on his roles. Because she was a landscaper, fitting in his shoes was not a walk in the park.
What facilitated her smooth transition was the fact that her late husband had built strong governing and leadership structures.
“More to that, I had been a director running on the side. But since I had no medical background, it was tough to immerse myself in the business fully. Otherwise, it is so scary for a non-medical person.”

Inspiration
Dr Mayanja had a large clientele that came to see particularly him, who she had to fight to keep. “With that at heart, I chose to invest in more medical equipment for the centre.” Her aim was to provide higher quality services to the people in one place.

Journey
It was not easy more so when telling some of the staff to do something they are very good at. “To facilitate the change, I was open to their recommendations on what services were needed to improve VMC.” As a woman, her attention was drawn to the antenatal room, considering that during pregnancy, she always wanted to access amenities.
Therefore, Mayanja worked towards doing something that would appeal to her and the women that come to the facility. “I am grateful that the staff I found are still here and the clientele continue to come to VMC.”

For a centre that had only one block, she is glad to have expanded it. “His shoes were so big for me to fill, but he also left me with a legacy that has opened doors for me to access help I would never have gotten on my own. I thank God for guiding me through all the ages.”
She has also educated their children, with one finishing medical school and another having finished chemical engineering. “With them, I am comfortable that I have people to pass the baton to.” Her husband’s wish was that she never buries his clinic with him. “There have been several challenges that almost saw me throw in the towel, but remembering his dying wish, I soldiered on.”

Registration
Established 30 years ago, Victoria Medical Centre was already registered. But it needed another doctor to join Mayanja, which was no hustle considering that as a businesswoman, she knew what to how to go about it.
“I had knowledge of such things thus sailed through with ease.”
Her only challenge was convincing the banks that a woman without medical knowledge would hold fort. “For that, asking for loans as my husband had and got easily was a hurdle. But I am thankful that I had been part of the running of the accounts of the facility even before his passing so I got my way around.

Expo
There are some things that we take for granted such as nutrition. At the Women’s expo, VMC shared information about child nutrition, breast and cervical cancer, prostate cancer awareness, Hepatitis A and B screening and HIV testing and counselling.
This allowed people to be open about their medical challenges in a non-hospital setting.

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Advice
Mayanja advises women to be focused as they pursue their goals. “After God, believe in yourself because everyone will have something to say, which might sway you from your goal.” She also urges women to venture into businesses they are passionate about. “If money is your driving force, then the first challenge will send you parking.”
She appeals to women to join groups such as Women in Business (WiB), and Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) for newworking and support.
“As a starter, Dr Charles Ocici of Enterprise Uganda told us that we could negotiate the interest we get for our loans. When I was asked to pay an interest rate of 12 per cent, I ably bargained to 11 per cent. That is only possible when you are empowered and such groups are an evenue for negotiations.”

Future
She and her team are planning to set up a well equipped labour suite, with a theatre, as well as an in-patient section.
“My late husband was a determined pediatrician who treasured children and their mothers. He longed to look after them for generations. We shall set up a hospital to look after his patients for generations to come, she narrates.

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