Lead contractor, Maada Salia handed the keys to Mercy Hospital’s new OR wing over to the staff on Monday, November 5th. Over the weekend of November 1st, the Mercy staff worked tirelessly to load in the equipment and supplies delivered in September by Project CURE, and ensured that the wing was ready for operations. Dr. Boima, a well-known surgeon in Sierra Leone and Dr. Amara’s mentor declared the wing and its two operating theatres “excellent” and “the nicest in Bo.” “I am very happy that the OR is now completed which means that the referral cases for surgery such as obstructed delivery and c-sections will now be treated here, “ said Dr. Amara, Mercy’s chief medical officer. “Before, the space was so limited we were very restricted in what we were able to do. Now, there are many more possibilities to help the community.” Head Matron Sister Augusta Kpanebaum agreed, “We have been waiting for this day a long time. We will be able to attend to cases instead of referring, especially maternity. We are so ready to go and want to thank our partners for the initiative. We are all very grateful!"
On Thursday, November 8, the first surgeries to be performed in the new OR were done by doctors affiliated with the Praise Foundation team in conjunction with trainings they are providing to Mercy staff in critical care management, obstetrics, and ultrasound. Like all medical professionals working at Mercy, PRAISE Foundation staff were required to provide medical credentials information to the Medical and Dental Counsel prior to performing surgeries at Mercy. Over the course of the first two days of operations in the new OR wing, 56 surgeries were performed by the Praise Foundation team with assistance from the Mercy staff, most of these were hernia operations and other minor surgical procedures.
Mercy will operate through the end of 2018 on a limited capacity, as they await the arrival of a blood bank and an anesthesia machine later this year. Until these important pieces of equipment arrive, Mercy will not be able to perform major surgeries, but will continue to provide the surgeries that it always has, now in a new, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Likewise, Mercy staff does not yet have the expertise to perform more complex surgeries such as c-sections. Dr. Amara will continue to work with Dr. Boima (a COMAHS professor and surgeon) to assist in surgeries beyond his current level of expertise, and now that those surgeries can be performed at Mercy, other staff will benefit in training opportunities as well.
Qualified surgeons who wish to perform surgeries at Mercy with Dr. Amara’s assistance, will be welcomed for the purpose of providing Mercy staff with teaching opportunities. This will include medical teams from overseas from time to time. Nonprofits utilizing Mercy OR for their own medical missions will do trainings as part of the privilege of performing surgeries at Mercy, and leave behind unused equipment and supplies for future use by Mercy. The PRAISE team has already demonstrated the value of simply having the facility with the collaborative spirit of Mercy Hospital available in their community.
Additional training for Mercy staff is also being planned. Project CURE is scheduled to provide training in obstetrics and critical care, and Dr. Amara and Matron August Kpanebaum will be attending GBGM training in obstetrics and Cesarean-sections in February of 2019. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on January 18, 2019.
Though progress on construction came to a halt during the recent presidential elections in Sierra Leone, the finishing touches are at last being completed on the expansion at Mercy Hospital.
The electrical wiring and three air conditioners have been installed. These units are a critical part of keeping patients and doctors comfortable and safe during surgical procedures. The remaining items to be completed are primarily cosmetic; finishing the ceilings, installing light fixtures, covering pipes, installing doors for the operating rooms, finishing the ramp, and completing the waiting area.
Additional facility issues at Mercy have also been addressed. One of the things Mercy has wanted to do for a long time is to better ensure the security of the compound. Mercy was able to use some savings to build a wall behind the hospital, extending from the Child Rescue Centre on one side, to the old wall that surrounds UMC Urban Centre on the other to create a U shape. The new wall will limit the number of people who use Mercy’s grounds as a pass through, and help the hospital secures its own and patients’ property. It will also strengthen disease control by allowing staff to monitor people entering the compound, and ensuring everyone washes their hands as they pass through the guard station. If a contagious disease breaks out, Mercy will be in a much stronger position to contain infection and protect patients and staff.
New fencing was also installed around the ash pits and garbage container, to ensure proper containment of hazardous materials.
Mercy Hospital's new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sao Amara, is settling in well at the hospital. Dr. Amara enjoys working closely with the staff, and is excited about the operating room. He is currently hard at work developing a list of equipment needed to get the OR up and running.
Dr. Amara has training and expertise in surgery, and is particularly interested in maternal health and surgery. These skills are especially critical for the hospital's expansion to include an operating theater.
Dr. Amara's interest in maternal and child health is what initially drew him to Mercy, so he is excited to be working with the prenatal and nutrition programs, and plans to go on outreach after the elections. Recently, Dr. Amara co-led a staff training on pregnancy-induced hypertension with Matron Augusta Kpanabaum.
Dr. Amara received a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the College of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2014, and is awaiting the results of his Masters of Public Health from Njala University. Dr. Amara should feel right at home at Mercy, having graduated from the Bo Government Senior Secondary School.
Dr. Sao K. Amara, Mercy’s new doctor and surgeon, and Matron Augusta recently engaged the Mercy maternity staff and Chief Health Officers on strategies for dealing with prolonged labor.
As they await the completion and equipping of the new wing and operating suite, the Mercy Hospital staff is focused on building staff skills that will help prepare the entire team to work together. Through regular on-site workshops and telemedicine, the staff continues to build their skills and knowledge.