Mercy Hospital is pleased to welcome Dr. Aruna Stevens to the staff. Aruna is an original alumnus of the Child Reintegration Centre residential program who was rescued from the Bo street as a small child in the wake of the Sierra Leone civil war. Aruna graduated from the University of Sierra Leone College of Medical and Allied Health Sciences and completed his housemanship (residency) at the University of Sierra Leone Teaching Hospital Complex.
"Today is a start of a childhood dream that I had to be a doctor to serve people, but specifically my people of Bo and its environs. I'm very humbled for this opportunity and grateful to Helping Children Worldwide, the Child Reintegration Centre, the United Methodist Church Sierra Leone Conference, and Mercy Hospital," Aruna says.
Cesarean section deliveries save lives
The busy Mercy staff continues to deliver babies, through normal deliveries and cesarean deliveries when necessary. Since the operating suite opened in 2018, the hospital has been able to provide life-saving emergency c-section procedures, saving the lives of mothers who are not able to deliver vaginally.
The need for cesarean sections can be aggravated by a range of issues such as delays in accessing the appropriate level of care, and transportation delays. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, with 11 mothers dying of pregnancy-related complications for every 1000 live born babies. The ability to perform c-section procedures at Mercy Hospital is a critical element of the global movement to reduce maternal mortality.
Simple hernia procedures save the lives of babies and toddlers
Two-year-old Saidu's family brought him to the hospital suffering from an inguinal hernia, a condition that Mercy sees very often, possibly due to premature birth. Untreated, inguinal hernia can lead to permanent intestinal damage.
Successful surgery was performed on Saidu to correct the hernia. His family couldn't afford to pay for the life-saving procedure for their son, and were grateful for Mercy's excellent care, which was provided for free.
Inguinal hernias look like a bulge or swelling in the groin or scrotum, and may be seen more easily when the baby cries. A hernia can develop in the first few months after a baby is born. It happens because of a weakness in the abdominal muscles. To correct the hernia, the surgeon puts the loop of intestine back into the abdominal area and stitches the muscles together.
To celebrate a year of saving lives in one of the most medically under-served regions in the world, the dedicated staff of Mercy Hospital held a festive End of Year party on the grounds of the hospital. The staff shared a bounteous potluck dinner and shared memories of the past year.
Hospital Administrator Jinnah Lahai and Head Matron Augusta Kpanabaum presented each of the staff members with a certificate of thanks for their good work serving vulnerable children and families throughout the year.
As the year draws to a close, Mercy has much to celebrate, and we are grateful for the hundreds of lives they have saved in 2019, through hospital services and village outreach.
19 year old Isata was admitted suffering from severe abdominal pain, which was diagnosed as acute appendicitis. Her appendix was successfully removed and she recovered. Isata was in the examination hall when appendicitis struck. Fast-thinking friends rushed her to the hospital.
Jeneba was admitted for vaginal bleeding and diagnosed with ovarian cyst and fibroids. During surgery it was discovered that her ovaries were severely damaged, requiring the removal of one. Jeneba is doing much better post-surgery, and in gratitude, promised to name her first child Mercy.
Sesay, age 18, collapsed and was not breathing when her family brought her to the hospital. She was diagnosed with severe anemia caused by malaria and typhoid. The Mercy statistician donated a unit of blood which was administered, and she made a full recovery. Her family was amazed at how quickly she recovered after receiving a transfusion.
Mercy Hospital’s Dr. Sao Amara, and Sister August Kpanabaum completed training in surgical obstetric training; specifically cesarean section, in the Phillipines. Sister Kpanabaum shared that they learned from several different lecturers covering a range of skills and topics related to obstetrics and maternity surgeries. Along with lecture and classroom time, Dr. Amara and Sr. Augusta were able to engage in hands-on training including practicals on various incision techniques, sterilization of instruments and the maintenance of a sterile theater and surgical field. Four students in the course came from Sierra Leone, 1 from Urban Centre Freetown, one from Rotifunk hospital, and two from Mercy Hospital. Other students in the course hailed from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Liberia.
To read more about the training, check out this article from UMC Mission!
Mercy received a blood bank on April 19, but is still in need of a solar system to ensure that the surgical ward, blood bank and Electronic Medical Information System has 24 hour power. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help.
I am in charge of the outreach program. I make sure the schedule is planned and adhered to when we go on outreach. I make sure the mobile clinic is set up and supervise volunteers and staff to make sure their units are functioning well and doing what they are supposed to do. At the end of the month I ensure all statistics are collated and submitted on time.
Why do I like my job? Ah! It is the passion! It’s really a passion. I like serving people. I like saving lives. I like encouraging people. When they are sick they are stressed and I like to make them feel better. I really like my job as a whole.
This job is very, very important. One, we are targeting vulnerable people, particularly the malnourished children. We have seen that the cases are many so we need to rehabilitate them and help them recover. Many of the protein rich foods are expensive here and families are too poor to afford them. We give them the pikinmix food and health talks to make sure they are helping their children grow. We also do a lot to prevent the malaria prevalence rate, which is so high here. HIV is another area where we can help. Many villages don’t have the facilities so we give them quality counseling and make sure they have access to their medication. Also the prenatal program helps so many people. We advise them to come to Mercy and not give birth at home and give them multivitamins that otherwise they would not get.
Saturday, January 12, five Mercy staff attended the "Helping Babies Breathe" training held in the Great Hall at the CRC. The training, arranged by Carol Nelson of Rural Health Initiative was led by neonatologist Dr. Sulaiman Sannoh. Dr. Sannoh, a native of Bo, is currently working in New Jersey.
Helping Babies Breathe teaches the initial steps of neonatal resuscitation to be accomplished within the first few moments after birth. The practice saves lives and gives a much better start to many babies who struggle to breathe at birth. The HBB curriculum was designed to specifically meet the needs of resource limited environments. HBB neonatal resuscitation techniques that have been shown to reduce neonatal mortality by up to 47% and fresh stillbirths by 24%.
Mercy's lead midwife, Hawa Koroma, found the training highly effective. "We were taught how to help babies breathe in case you deliver a baby that has a heartbeat, but is not breathing. We were able to practice using a NeoNatalie newborn simulator, which was very much like a real newborn. Mercy was able to keep three of these simulators as well as a wide variety of face masks and supplies we did not have in the maternity unit. Most of us had learned these techniques, but this was good practice, and we love having the new equipment."
On Friday, January 18, Mercy Hospital officially launched its Electronic Medical Information System (EMIS) - a database which will enable the hospital to use electronic medical records to track patient data. The first electronic records management system in the country, the database will have a positive impact on patient care as it will be much easier to access a patient's history and chart. Hospital Administrator, Jinnah Lahai, is thrilled about this new addition to Mercy. “It has added more value to Mercy in comparison to other facilities. It will lead to greater transparency and data security."
Joseph Lamin and the Mercy Laboratory team, has led the effort in creating the software that will be used. District Medical Officer, Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh, is working closely with Mercy to supervise compliance with standards for medical records management and confidentiality. While paper will no longer be used for data entry, communication, or analysis, every electronic medical records system maintains redundant electronic and paper record back up copies - and Mercy's EMIS is no exception.
Once the electronic information system is fully operational, all units of the hospital will contribute to it, enabling all patient information to be stored electronically. The EMIS also tracks drug and supply inventory and staff shift time logs. EMIS produces valid research data on diagnosis as well as effective interventions and treatments. Under the current system, patients are tracked by a patient number, but if they forget or lose that number, the staff is forced to either sort through thousands of patient cards or start a new chart. Starting a new chart is easier, but it means the loss of all patient history that preceded it. The new system will make communication between units instantaneous which will mean that patients are able to receive input on their care from a variety of Mercy staff in real time.
Registration of patients will include fingerprint identification as an element to permit accurately matching patient charts with medical histories. Sierra Leone has a high rate of illiteracy and poor records in villages. Patients often do not know how to spell their names or have current address information or know their date of birth. Paper records often become damaged and unreadable or lost. Fingerprint identification mitigates against all of these challenges.
Creating reports based on the data will be much easier and more accurate. The database will greatly reduce the chances of error and leave more time for analyzing data and refining programs instead of painstakingly gathering numbers. Data will also be collected from the outreach programs, which will help Mercy identify trends in who is seeking care at Mercy or its outreach, what are the most concerning diseases, and how programs can be altered to best suit the needs of the community.
Lamin projects that the Mercy staff will be comfortable using the system within two weeks of its mid-January launch, and adept by week six. Mercy Dr. Sao Amara, is looking forward to the system becoming fully operational, “it will help with tracking patients, increase financial accountability, reduce patient wait times, assure patient confidentiality and and allow staff to be informed about patient status quickly.”
On Friday, January 18, Mercy Hospital officially opened the doors of its long-awaited Surgical Wing. The celebration included remarks from various dignitaries and Mercy leadership, a welcome song performed by Mercy staff, the Act of Dedication performed by Bishop Yambasu, an official ribbon-cutting and tour of the new surgical wing, and refreshments. Bishop John K. Yambasu, District Medical Officer Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh, UMC Health Coordinator Catherine Norman, UMC Bo District Superintendent Reverend Francis Charley, Chairman of the UMC Health Board Dr. Dennis Marke, and HCW Executive Director Melody Curtiss each shared remarks at the ceremony.
Reverend Charley opened the ceremony with prayer, stating that “this hospital is a state of the art hospital and is going to provide facilities and treatment for patients in the country and even beyond.” Bishop Yambasu shared that this day is the result of “the passion, dedication and commitment of our friends from the United States. Helping Children Worldwide has been involved in our work with the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital for more than 20 years.” Catherine Norman reflected on Mercy's history, saying “almost 13 years ago, a one-room health clinic with two health staff was established to provide first aid, nutrition and basic health care to the children of the CRC. In 2007, the building in front of us was transformed into Mercy Hospital. I am glad that today, the dream of a functional surgical building has come true. With this building, Mercy Hospital has now been empowered to provide quality care not only to the Bo, but the entire district, and even beyond.”
The Bishop performed the official Act of Dedication, asking God to “graciously accept this building which we now dedicate to thee, to thy service, and to thy glory, that in it skill and tenderness may unite to bring health and cure to those who come for aid…. Grant that those who come here in weakness may be made strong, that those who come in pain may find relief, and that those who come in sorrow may find joy and gladness.”
On behalf of HCW, Mrs. Curtiss recognized the contributions of all of its donors, particularly the large bequests of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford, VA, without whose generosity the wing would not have been built, and the Peterson Family Foundation, who sponsored the shipment of surgical supplies and equipment necessary for an operating theatre. Mrs. Curtiss also recognized the special contributions of Mercy Laboratory Technician, Joseph Lamin, who is heading up the launch of Mercy Hospital’s new Electronic Medical Information System (see story at bottom of newsletter).
Mercy’s surgical wing includes two operating theatres, a recovery room, decontamination room, sterilzation room, male and female changing rooms, medical supplies storage, reception and doctors’ consultation rooms. Second floor includes a private and semi-private wards, male and female wards, conference room and ICU. Mercy’s surgical program will operate on a limited capacity, as they await the arrival of a blood bank. Until this important piece of equipment arrives, Mercy will continue to provide the surgeries that it always has, now in a new, state-of-the-art surgical facility. Dr. Amara continues 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.
Project CURE is scheduled to provide training in obstetrics and critical care to Mercy staff this year, and Dr. Amara and Matron August Kpanebaum will be attending GBGM training in obstetrics and Cesarean-sections in February-March.
The Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital continue to find ways to partner together to provide care to people in the Bo community. This summer, they worked together to diagnose, treat and then place a deaf and mute child who’d been sleeping on the street. That child, Joseph Deen, now lives with his caregiver, the headmaster at the local deaf school, and is also enrolled in the school.
Recently, on a home visit to two children in the CRC Program (Kula Sesay Lassie and Paul Lassie), CRC Case Managers and Counselors, Rosa Saffa and Emmanuel Lamin realized that their grandmother, Kula Sesay, seemed quite ill. Kula shared that she had felt sick for over a year. Kula has been caring for her two grandchildren ever since their mother, Hannah, died during an epileptic seizure.
Rosa and Emmanuel encouraged Kula to go to Mercy Hospital for diagnosis and treatment. She worried at first about her lack of ability to pay for her treatment, but the CRC staff members were happy to share with her Mercy’s policy to provide care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Mercy’s Community Health Officer, Deborah Boima diagnosed Kula with tuberculosis, and provided her with medicines and monthly treatment at Mercy Hospital. Grateful, Kula said, “I am really excited with the support of CRC, my health is now satisfactory.”