By Gilbert Mwijuke
Greg Bakunzi, the managing director of Amahoro Tours, and Dr Otto Fischer, an Austrian veterinary surgeon, first conceived the idea of setting up a veterinary hospital in Musanze district in November 2014.
This followed a meeting with veterinary doctors from Musanze, which was convened by Bakunzi and Dr Fischer (pictured above, left) to discuss the challenges facing their profession. During the meeting, one of the challenges the vets pointed out was the lack of a diagnostic laboratory. They were working on the basis of physical examination, they told Dr Fischer, who promised to “do something”.
When he returned to Austria, Dr Fischer successfully lobbied for funds from a Swiss foundation, and, in 2015, the idea of setting up the private animal clinic and laboratory became a reality.
But first, Dr Fischer had to fill the skills gap by sending three veterinary surgeons for post-graduate training at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria.
Meanwhile, Rwandan engineer Jaques Shumbusho led a team of engineers to construct the hospital structure in Rwaza sector, about seven kilometres out of Musanze town, which would house the New Vision Veterinary Hospital (NVVH).
Upon completion of construction, state-of-the-art equipment was shipped in from Austria and on July 29, 2016, the hospital swung its doors open for business at a ceremony that attracted local leaders, conservationists, veterinarians and ordinary Rwandans.
Touted as the country’s premier veterinary referral hospital, the NVVH aims to improve “animal conditions such as health, welfare, nutrition and reproduction.”
Apart from livestock (cows, pigs, goats, sheep, etc) and domestic pets (dogs, cats), the hospital will also treat a wide range of wild animals, including Musanze’s famed mountain gorillas. According to its proprietors, the new hospital will be partnering with — among other vet organisations — the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, an organisation of vets that monitors the health of mountain gorillas in Virunga massif.
“Besides offering veterinary services to clients,” proprietors of the new facility said, “NVVH focuses on collaboration and interaction with veterinarians from abroad like the Austrian-Rwandan Veterinary Project and the partnership with the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.”
The new facility boasts a surgery room, two laboratories, one examination room, a pharmacy, and a ‘burning corner’ for incinerating dead animals — all fitted with state-of-the-art equipment.
Asked why Dr Fischer and co. decided to invest in a veterinary hospital in a country like Rwanda where people have numerous health concerns, the Austrian vet said, “There is only one health.”
The idea of “One Health” recognises that the health of humans, animals and ecosystems are interconnected. It involves applying a coordinated, collaborative, multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach to address potential or existing risks that originate at the animal-human-ecosystems interface, according to One Health Global.