Last week, the New York Times highlighted some of the opportunities and challenges involved in the Government of Sierra Leone's efforts to provide free healthcare for children and pregnant women.
The article cites early indications that the initiative is having an impact -- including a "214 percent increase in the number of children under 5 getting care at health facilities... and an 85 percent drop in the malaria fatality rate for children treated in hospitals" -- but also enormous challenges. "The health minister, Zainab Bangura, says her country needs 54 gynecologists but has only 4. Likewise, she says, there are only two pediatricians in a nation of over five million people."
Together with our partners, the Welbodi Partnership is working to address this shortage of pediatricians. Two of the Ola During Children Hospital's medical officers recently passed the primary exams for the West African College of Pediatrics and Director of Clinical Teaching Professor Tamra Abiodun is leading a team of fellows providing hands-on training and professional development for these and other young doctors. Meanwhile, we are working towards accreditation through the West African College so that someday soon, aspiring pediatricians from Sierra Leone can qualify as specialists without leaving the country.
Would you like to help? We are always looking for specialist pediatricians to join us in Freetown to help provide clinical training. Contact Emily(at)Welbodipartnership.org for more information.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Welbodi is busy. That's my excuse for the lack of blog posts. However, I am happy to report that a lot is happening at the Children's Hospital.
One of our partner organizations transformed the administrative wing into a new ER/ICU wing (thanks CA) which opened about a month ago. Prior to that they built a second story on top of the feeding centre, which now functions as the administrative block.
Welbodi started the reconstruction of the neonatal unit in partnership with UNFPA. This is a very exciting project and will double the size of the neonatal unit! It will also provide space for the mothers to be able to stay near their children. We will have a separate outpatient clinic from the inpatient area. There will be an isolation room. We'll have more space and hopefully soon more equipment as well. It's exciting.
We also had a team of lab experts from the UK and the Gambia at the hospital this week as part of the lab development project that Welbodi facilitates. It was great to see so many hard working people in the lab. The technicians were eager to learn and they were very open to input and advice on how to improve the lab services. Let's hope they keep up the good work.
Yesterday a group of students from King's College arrived in Freetown to work with Welbodi to conduct qualitative research on health seeking behaviour in the community. We hope that the results will give us more insight as to why children come to the hospital late and help us find ways to tackle those barriers.
We've been busy preparing for a Fundraiser quiz night which will take place next Friday. Fun! If you're in Freetown and have not yet given us your name - come! It's Le 50,000 for dinner and a quiz. We'll have fun prizes. It'll be a great night up at IMATT.
Meanwhile we continue to plod along with the postgraduate training program for doctors through the West African College of Physicians, with a lot of input from a Nigerian professor currently based at the hospital. As of September we will bring in visiting paediatric consultants for 3-6 months at a time to help teach the residents at the hospital. Seeing as there will be more Welbodies on the ground, we are buying a new (new to us, second hand in reality) vehicle that seats 7!
We are also helping set up a paediatric nurse training program in collaboration with the Ministry. We believe this will greatly improve paediatric care. The nurses make up the largest workforce in the hospital and it is crucial that they are trained well so that they can provide good nursing care.
Work in the medical records department continues. We are now able to provide the hospital and Ministry with monthly reports as well as quarterly reports. There's still along way to go, but the department has definitely improved over the past year.
Another area that we are involved in is the radiology department. We are working along side a radiologist and radiographer to help them set up a training program in radiography due to a shortage of radiographers in the country. We also hope to be able to source (and find funding for) an x-ray and consumables. Once we have everything in place we can start doing x-rays. This too will have an impact on patient care.
All in all, it's a busy time. At times it seems like we are not getting anywhere, but when you look back over the past year, it is obvious that the hospital has definitely improved. Yes, there is still a lot to do, but we are moving forward. Small small. One step at a time.
If you would like join Welbodi in improving paediatric care you can donate to the cause at: http://www.justgiving.com/welbodipartnership
Lab expert from Wales training one of the Sierra Leonean technicians