By Phileas Jusu*
United Methodist General Hospital in eastern Freetown, Sierra Leone, now provides a more standard and expanded mother and child health care for patients through its newly constructed Mother and Child Health unit.
The $750,000 maternity building, funded through the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has doubled its previous maternal bed space from 24 to 50. Since the founding of Kissy United Methodist Hospital more than 30 years ago, maternal and child care has served as the core of the hospital’s services and area of expertise.
Community Outreach Unit
The fully air-conditioned facility, which was dedicated Oct. 26, 2013, also will provide space for an expanded outpatient area, consulting rooms, administrative offices, an expanded pharmacy and laboratory and radiology departments.
The unit also will house the hospital’s newly restructured Community Outreach Unit, which includes the HIV/AIDS “Friends” Unit, malaria and nutrition programs. This will enable the hospital to more effectively to reach out in the surrounding community and villages — where the maternal mortality, child morbidity and diseases of poverty are most pronounced.
“Today we open a new chapter in the maternal and child health care delivery in Sierra Leone.The facility will offer the highest level of readiness and the highest level of maternal care anywhere in Sierra Leone — a facility in which hope, comfort and healing will take place; a fully air-conditioned 50-bed edifice with hot and cold running water complete with an emergency room for Caesarian operation/session; a facility where pregnant women and children will receive the best quality care they need in the comfort of its walls,” said the chief medical officer of the hospital, Dr. Dennis Marke, at the dedication.
By providing space in the new unit for medical offices, computer networking cables and archives, new management and records systems will promote better patient care and strengthen the hospital’s ability to evaluate patient outcomes, especially to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity.
Shannon Trilli, global health initiative director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is seen in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference as key in obtaining the first American Schools and Hospitals Abroad grant for Sierra Leone. Trilli expressed joy that their efforts had materialized into such a splendid structure.
“We at UMCOR are proud to represent the people in the pews, partners and volunteers like the Indiana Annual Conference. We believe first and foremost in prevention and education in treating cases like malaria, pneumonia and water-borne diseases that affect the lives of our brothers and sisters. But we also know that the most vulnerable will fall sick. And when that happens, we want more and more of them to be able to come to a place like this,” she said. A significant proportion of support for the UMC Kissy General Hospital also comes from the Indiana Annual (regional) Conference in the U.S.
Trilli said that the planners had everybody in mind — including the physically challenged — as the Maternal Child Health project was rolled out. UMCOR was insistent that access be granted to all, referring to the ramp at the front of the building enabling access to the physically challenged to enter and leave the building with ease.
“Our goal is to make this nation the best it could be in health delivery services. With four hospitals and seven clinics around the country, we are here today to show this nation that there is no other option available to us than bringing healing to our people,” said Sierra Leone Bishop John K. Yambasu.
‘Conduit of peace, reconciliation and unity’
The bishop emphasized that politicians come and go but the church will always be there. He said the church will continue to stay and lead.
“So what we need to do is to ensure that we become the conduit of peace, of reconciliation and of unity because our agenda is eternal; our agenda does not change. We must take the lead to help our politicians to redirect their focus to the purpose of their being,” Yambasu said.
As Kissy Hospital’s Community Outreach Unit becomes more effective, referrals to the hospital are anticipated to increase. As bed space is doubled in both the maternity and pediatric wards, a 25 percent growth is anticipated in patient load over the next five to 10 years, raising the number of people served to more than 50,000 patients.
Representing the president who was out of the country, Sierra Leone Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana, who gave the keynote address at the dedication, said,
“I carry two hats in performing this duty — one being representing my superior and the other as beneficiary… and for what I am today, I owe it to The United Methodist Church”.
Sam-Sumana was educated at United Methodist primary and secondary schools in eastern Sierra Leone but became a Muslim during his political years.
“We as Sierra Leoneans have occupied an unenviable position under the U.N. human development index to which the threshold of the WHO of having not more than 100 infant and maternal mortality rate; we have occupied an unenviable position exceeding the 100 for infants to 165 according to the 2004 statistics,” the vice president said.
However, this picture has drastically changed in the last 12 years. In the 2013 U.N. Human Development Index report, Sierra Leone ranks among countries that made the greatest improvement since the year 2000.
“Out of the 14 countries worldwide which recorded HDI gains of more than 2 per cent annually since 2000, eleven are in sub-Saharan Africa. They include Sierra Leone, which recorded the second highest HDI improvement in the world since 2000,” the report states.
The HDI takes into account life expectancy, education, and income indices to rank countries in terms of human development.
*Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church’s Sierra Leone Annual Conference. News media contact: Tafadzwa Mudambanuke, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.