The Bo Children’s Hospital (BCH) in Bo, Sierra Leone is the dream of the late Dr Nuli Lemoh, a Sydney Paediatrician born in Bo and who qualified as an international student in Sydney and the United Kingdom. Dr Lemoh practiced in Sierra Leone but moved to Sydney because of the civil war. Nuli wanted to support his hometown of Bo as there was no specialist children’s hospital there. The only children’s hospital is in Freetown the capital, 300km (4 hours) away. The death rate of children under 5 in Sierra Leone is now 82 per 1000 children. BCH is helping prevent a silent disaster – the hospital is a very real need.
Sierra Leone, West Africa, is a country which has a very high infant mortality and very low life expectancy. The health status of the people in Sierra Leone is still among the worst in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, infant and maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the world. Infant mortality. Infant mortality rate is 82 per 1,000 live births, under-five mortality rate is 111 per 1,000 live births and maternal mortality ration is 857 per 100,000 births. Low life expectancy rate (57 years) in Sierra Leone is associated with high rates of preventable disease and very high child and maternal morbidity and mortality.
The likelihood of dying before the age of 15 is more that 50% for both males and females. The underlying factors are pervasive poverty, high levels of illiteracy (with rates for young females worse than for young males), limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation; poor nutrition; and limited access to quality health services. Infant and maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the world. However, the majority of illness and death, especially of children in Sierra Leone, are preventable. Bo Children's Hospital is making a positive difference.
The existing functional health facilities are inadequate and inequitably distributed nationally with remote areas missing out. The health workforce is inadequate, with shortages of doctors and maternal health workers; only 42% of births are attended by skilled health personnel. The introduction of the Free Health Care Initiative increased health service coverage in 2010; the number of children coming for care at the health facilities increased 2.5-fold. There is still a struggle to provide adequate services, with shortages of personnel, and challenges in supply of drugs and medicines, equipment and laboratory services. Malaria is the most common cause of illness and death in Sierra Leone, accounting for about 50% of outpatient visits and 38% of hospital admissions. It is one of the main causes of death of children aged under 5 years.
The Bo Children’s Hospital since its inception in June 2012 has successfully treated over 31,000 children. The biggest impact the hospital has made since it opened its' doors has been saving lives from preventable diseases such as Malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, tuberculosis and HIV.
The Bo Children’s Hospital is the second only children’s hospital to open in the history of Sierra Leone. The Hospital is a tribute to a community wanting to build a better future and the generosity of humanity across international borders.
Over the past decade, from the early days of construction to a now growing resource for the locals, Bo Children’s Hospital is making a tangible difference in the community – especially for the helpless young children who are in desperate need of medical care.
The staff are all from the local community and take full responsibility for running the hospital. They are all qualified and take pride in providing a high standard of care. This much needed hospital has 25 beds for both day and overnight admissions whilst also providing outpatients clinics, imaging and laboratory facilities, a pharmacy and minor surgery. A Triage and Isolation Ward have been added to the original building to handle the outbreak of infectious diseases. It also supports the parents by providing education about disease prevention and hygiene issues.
■ effective health systems that deliver high-quality interventions
■ skilled and motivated health workers, with the necessary infrastructure, drugs, equipment and regulations.
With the generous and ongoing support of donations and charity benefits, today the hospital features:
■ 2 wards, plus an isolation ward and surgery
■ X-Ray equipment
■ Diagnostic tools and equipment including an electronic microscope and ultra sound machine
Our next steps are to secure immediate donations and funding of:
■ Medical staff salaries, the staff have had one increase since the hospital opened.
■ Supply of much needed medical equipment
■ A reliable ambulance service
■ Sustainable Malnutrition Clinic and Patient feeding program
The staff vaccinate over 50 children a week and for those that cannot get to the hospital they send out nurses on a motorbike to far reaching villages to vaccinate the children.
While the country continues to make effort in reducing child morbidity and mortality, vaccine preventable diseases and malaria still account for 30% and 17% of death among children under the age of five according to the Sierra Leone’s 2016-2020 Malaria Strategic Plan.
The Ebola outbreak was a devastating blow to Sierra Leone, and we had to close the hospital for 3 weeks at one stage so the virus did not contaminate the hospital. Thanks to our many wonderful donors and Rotary we have a much-needed Isolation Ward for the containment of infectious diseases. The virus also caused an economic disaster impacting on businesses, food production and stifling growth, it will take a long time for the country to recover. As at 7th November 2015, Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free. The Bo Children’s Hospital continues to grow and maintain its services despite the current economic conditions. However, we would be able to treat many more children if we had the funds to expand.
The Solar Panels and Generator provide much needed power to Bo Children’s Hospital. Additional solar panels and a new generator were installed as a back-up power supply when solar energy is not available. The generator is located in the powerhouse alongside the current 20 KVR generator used by the Hospital. The constant power supply has made a big difference to Bo Children’s Hospital, previously the power would constantly drop out and the staff on night shift had to wear light helmets to see the patients.
BCH has approximately 14 volunteer Nurses. They are graduates from the local Medical School in Bo. These nurses are only given a token amount to boost their morale each month. All have had experience in working at an Isolation Unit during the Ebola outbreak. Some of their functions in various disciplines in the hospital are: Performing nursing procedures on the wards. Collating all patient fees. Account to the finance office at the end of each day. Prepare a monthly return that is presented to the DHMT. Assist in the pharmacy in recording stock in and out. Dispensing of medicines. Work at triage centre to screen patients coming in with infectious diseases. Carry out immunizations twice a week.
The Bo Children’s Hospital Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Sydney, Australia and is run entirely by volunteers, every dollar donated goes directly to the running costs and salaries for the Bo Children’s Hospital. (See biographies of board members attached). Tax deductibility is made possible through Rotary Australia World Community Services.
A Day Surgery is now operating at BCH where minor surgery is carried out. One such surgery was carried out at the hospital recently by removing a herniated growth from a young man to relieve him of his pain and discomfort. Qualified medical professionals under the direction of the hospital Paediatrician Dr Jalloh, performed the surgery successfully and the young man has fully recovered.
The Hospital has embarked on growing some crops on the land behind the building. The crops of the season the hospital has started with are groundnuts (peanuts), sweet potatoes, cucumbers, cassava, and corn. They plan to eventually harvest and sell or get some cash return from the crops by selling to staff and patients. You will see pictures of the young plants in the garden. We still need to spend money for weeding and other crop protection practices.
An initial investment was provided to purchase various items from the city and to sell at retail prices from the pharmacy window. Items included powdered milk, biscuits, sugar, and many more items that the mothers usually buy for themselves and their children.
The cost of transportation to and from town and the need to ride a commercial bike to town for small items is obviated. The sales from the shop are making progress.
To accommodate Medical staff, the hospital would need to build 2 units onto the existing building adding another 2 units at a later stage as funds become available. These units would include: 2 bedrooms plus a study, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, front and back verandas with solar power for each unit. The total cost for 4 units would be $64,000.
The hospital could not have been achieved without the wonderful support of Rotary Clubs in Sydney, the UK, and Bo, The Sydney University International House Alumni Association, along with many private donors, schools and churches. We are indebted to these wonderful donors who have continued to support and sustain the hospital into its eighth year.
Watch Dr. Lemoh in 'My Story - Nuli Lemoh'. In 2011, Dr. Lemoh outlined his vision for Bo's Children's Hospital before he and many volunteers made his dream a reality.
My Story - Nuli Lemoh from Adventist Record on Vimeo.