GEEL Medical Services - Delivering Dignity through Healthcare

The Unilever Global Development Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty, Finalist, 2016

By taking healthcare into the community GEEL Medical Services is working to reduce the maternal mortality rate in rural Uganda and helping girls delay motherhood.

Good for society

  • The community-based healthcare model of GEEL Medical Services (GMS) has reached close to 200,000 people.
  • Through GMS over 20,000 school girls have been given access to information and sexual and reproductive healthcare to enable them to delay motherhood.

Good for business

  • GEEL Medical Services has created 30 jobs in deprived rural areas.
  • The company's success has allowed them to expand further, opening three new hospitals in other areas.

GEEL Medical Services logoOverview

The doctor-patient ratio in rural communities in sub Saharan Africa is much lower than in urban areas, and many people struggle to access healthcare. In Uganda over 6,000 women die every year during pregnancy and childbirth and only half of births in rural areas take place in a health facility.

Only 27% of girls in rural communities reach secondary school level education and many become mothers in their early teens. Infant mortality among adolescent mothers in Uganda is 105/1,000 live births.

GEEL Medical Services (GMS) offers reliable, affordable, comprehensive healthcare services in rural communities, with a focus on maternal health and sexual and reproductive healthcare for girls and young women. The hospital services are charged for with an income-based payment model, to cater for the extreme poor in the rural communities. Over the past three years, the company has tested their model of community-based hospitals with medical outreach camps which have been developed with other voluntary partner organisations and are free of charge.  They have seen positive results.

So far almost 200,000 people have been reached by GMS healthcare services, including 20,000 school girls who have been given access to information and sexual and reproductive healthcare to enable them to delay motherhood. GMS has also created 30 jobs in deprived rural areas for hospital staff and health workers.

Understanding the problem

A 2015 survey showed that in Uganda public health facilities which provide free or subsidised treatment for the poor are often overburdened by large numbers of cases; short of medicines and skilled doctors, nurses and qualified staff; and are ill-equipped to handle medium to high risk or complicated cases. Private healthcare facilities provide a better quality service, but the costs exclude many poorer patients. 

GMS hospitals and medical clinics target both customers who can and cannot afford to pay for health services, following a model of 30% paying customers who can subsidise 70% that cannot afford to pay.

Designing specialised services

GMS provides quality healthcare at affordable prices through two main interventions:

  • Its hospital employs 30 staff, is open 24/7 to accommodate emergency cases, can admit 20 patients for overnight stays, and operates specialist clinics during business hours. Departments include general medicine, maternal child health care, gynecology, x-ray, ultrasound and laboratory for diagnostic services, dental health, and an HIV clinic.

  • Its medical outreach camps are focused on vulnerable children, the elderly, and girls for whom early teenage pregnancies are a particular risk. GMS reaches remote parts of rural Uganda, where there is little access to adequate medical services or basic disease prevention knowledge.

Engaging employees and external stakeholders

In 2011 GMS had only four staff, but it has now grown to 25 staff. All employees are treated as partners in the project, which helps to build a sense of ownership and commitment. They are provided with incentives and an attractive salary.

GMS external stakeholders include local communities, the government, NGOs, investors and mentors who are kept updated and engaged through a variety of communications channels including interactive radio talk shows.

What GEEL Medical Services' CEO said:

"Quality healthcare should be everyone’s right. But when you dig down, you see that’s far from the case." - CEO GEEL Medical Services