The surgery history

History of The Surgery Uganda: In the UK a general practitioner’s office is called “The Surgery” for example when I was a boy I went to “The Surgery Lemon Street” and later changed to “The Surgery Carnon Downs”. It has got nothing to do with anything sharp: when an MP goes back home for the weekend to see his constituents, that is often called “surgery hours”. It means an office where a professional sees his clients.

There has been a tradition of British general practitioners running a Surgery in Kampala since the 1940’s. Dr Gibbons took over in the early 1960’s with his office in The Square and Dr Stockley joined him in the British High Commission in 1992. The earliest patient records I have seen were from 1972: and he is still a patient of ours today.

There have certainly been changes over the years. In 1992 there were no purpose built facilities in Kampala other than the big hospitals, Mulago, Nsambya, Rubaga and Mengo. As The Surgery moved into bigger and more functional buildings we increased the range of services offered, first was ultrasound, then in-patient rooms, then lab, x-ray and finally what you see now. A bigger change is the number of personnel: Dr Gibbons was alone most of time, with a cleaner and the indefatigable Miss Kabega. Then there were 2 doctors with a few short termers coming and going: how many remember Dr Minet? Dr North? Dr Greeny? Now we have 11 doctors, 70 staff and we still have Miss Kabega. And the biggest change of all? Well, Dr Gibbons wore the same tie every day. A free consultation for the first post received that correctly describes the motif on that tie.

On 2nd December we celebrated 3 years in the present building. The foundation stone was laid on St Patrick’s day 2013 by one of Kampala’s foremost Irish characters, and it was finished on schedule 8 months later. It survived the last earthquake with a few cracks in the plaster.


As well as our 5 out-patient Drs rooms, 3 ER cubicles and 4 in-patient rooms we have a fully functional ER and resuscitation room with all the equipment, space, and trained staff we need to offer modern emergency care 24/7. So why not have a heart attack and come in and see it all for yourself from the sharp end! We have a fully digital x-ray, (it was the first in Uganda, not simply a digital pick-up bolted on to old technology). We have ultrasound, endoscopy and a dentist: we have a “Hans on” physiotherapy room and a psychologist, a maternal child health care room and an ophthalmologist. You choose the orifice and we have a room for it.

At night we have on-site doctor, nurses, and lab tech with back-up radiologist and one of our senior consultants on call. Sadly we no longer have the dog. It was an Alsatian so we couldn’t use it to do “lab” tests and we realise it often got the diagnosis wrong, barking up the wrong tree.

What I hope has not changed is our commitment to honesty, integrity and evidence-based scientific medicine. World-wide it seems honest clinical medicine is on the decline with profit-making, over investigation and over treatment rampant. New technology often just makes bad medicine more expensive. Reliance on technology increasingly leads to the danger of treating the scan not the patient. 40 years ago we bemoaned the culture of a “pill for every ill and a needle for every need”. Now it seems to be a MRI scan for every headache and and an antibiotic for every cough

As we celebrate 3 years in our new home The Surgery strives to maintain our reputation for honest clinical standards, telling the truth even if unpopular and putting patients before profit.