Renewed Hope in Marsabit, Kenya

The following post was written by Henry Kahara for The Reject Newspaper, a monthly publication of the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service. See original article here.

A few years ago, residents of Marsabit County couldn’t find a reason to visit their district hospital even for basic medical care.

The hospital, meant to serve a huge number of the county’s population was in ruins. The staff were overworked, departments under-equipped and, understaffed.

Although the hospital staff strived to provide the best care for the patients under the circumstances, with lack of equipment and supplies necessary to do the jobs they had been trained to do, their efforts were a drop in the ocean.

However, thanks to collaboration between Marsabit County Government, Partners for Care, Medshare and Coca Cola Africa Foundation, the residents now have a reason to smile.

According to Connie Cheren, founder Partners for Care who spearheaded a project that saw the hospital acquire a new phase, it took a collaborative efforts that saw stakeholders do an overhaul on every department to give the hospital a total face-lift.

Cheren who is a nurse in the USA, mobilized different stakeholders after learning of the hospital’s sorry state. She explains: “Once during a visit to the hospital, I realised the locals hardly made hospital visits. My quest to find out why women particularly were shying away from delivering at the hospital, led to a shocking discovery.”

Says Cheren: “There were old broken and rusty beds at the hospital and almost half of the patients’ beds didn’t have mattresses.”

Cheren notes: “In addition, most of the machines at the hospital were dysfunctional and it was difficult to offer even the basic care needed for a woman to deliver. My heart bled and I felt inclined to do something to change the situation.”

Cheren’s efforts led her to get the support of Medshare, a humanitarian organization dedicated to improving quality of life for people by sourcing and directly delivering surplus medical supplies and equipment to communities in need around the world.

Coca Cola Africa Foundation joined on board to form a strong partnership. Medshare donated beds and equipment to the hospital whereas Coca Cola African Foundation funded the shipping and transport to Marsabit.

Former Chief Executive Officer of Marsabit Hospital, Dr Dima Galogalo recalls how health providers at the time would refuse to be stationed at the hospital.

“Things were so bad that at times patients would die from curable diseases. Many organisations had come before promising help that eventually would not be forth coming,” explains Galogalo. He recalls: “So when Cheren and partners pledged to assist the hospital, we were at first naturally sceptical.”

However, Galogalo decided to talk to his team and as that they give the partnership a chance “as any help was better than none”.

Help at last!

In August 2013, the first container with equipment arrived to the disbelief of the hospital team. This changed everything about the hospital including the number of patients coming for treatments.

Galogalo, who is currently Marsabit County Health Director, says the hospital services have greatly improved, so much so that now the hospital serves patients from as far as Moyale among other areas.

“Now, we can afford to offer high quality medical services thanks to Medshare, Coca Cola Africa Foundation and Partners for Car,” he notes.

With the demand for medical services having gone a notch higher, the Marsabit County Government has further chipped in and equipped the hospital with 10 ambulances, a great improvement from the one broken down ambulance they had originally.

Maria Elema, nurse-in- charge at Marsabit County Hospital says before the improvement at the hospital, the maternity wing especially experienced great difficulties.

“Women had to come with their own gloves among other basic supplies needed for delivery,” says Elema. She explains: “The risk of infection coupled by a low bed capacity posed a major health risk to both mothers and babies.”

Elema notes: “This discouraged many women from seeking delivery services at the hospital, but today the narrative has changed.”

The hospital is currently managing more than 120 deliveries every month, which translates to four deliveries daily compared to before when on a good month the numbers were at 50

In addition, the hospital has baby warmers and this face-lift has gone a long way in reducing not only maternal mortality but also neonatal death.

The partnership also equipped the hospital with furniture and computers to collect accurate data. Previously, the hospital had shut down their therapy department but with the donated equipment, the services have since resumed.

Abshiro Hapicha, Chief Executive Officer at the hospital says they now have state-of-the-art equipment. Some of these include all new electric beds, mechanical lifts, walkers, canes, wheelchairs, braces, hundreds of boxes of much needed supplies such as bandages, gloves and protective clothing for staff among other basic items.

According to Hapicha, Marsabit County Hospital has struggled for years to serve the overwhelming needs of the 200,000 people in its district. Even health practitioners would shy away from working in such a locality. However, the odds have since changed and in 2016, the Marsabit County Government established a fund to entice local students to pursue medical courses to deal with the severe shortage of health workers.

Now the residents of Marsabit County have renewed hope with quality medical services in place.