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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > Archives Web Exclusives > Mercy Hospital: Making a Big Difference in Sierra Leone

An UMVIM team member from Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Va., teaches bandaging techniques. Photo courtesy of Sarah Newman.
Mercy Hospital: Making a
Big Difference in Sierra Leone

Residing within the structure of the Sierra Leone Conference of The United Methodist Church, Mercy Hospital is an exciting example of how the connectionalism of the church can save lives and make a difference in the poorest country in the world.

The seed was planted for Mercy Hospital when a Volunteers in Mission team from Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Va., traveled to Bo, Sierra Leone, to work at the Child Rescue Center to improve the lives of some of the country's war-affected orphans and street children.

It became apparent to the team that many people in the community could not afford health care. In Sierra Leone, one must pay for health care services in advance. If you can't pay, you don't receive the care, and that contributes to the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world.

Mercy Hospital was started in October 2007 to provide health care for the poor based on a sliding scale. It quickly became a facility that draws people from more than 100 miles away and even from neighboring countries.

Esther Gbenga's son, Edmond, came to Mercy in critical condition with severe diarrhea, dehydration, and vomiting. With the hospital's care and technology, the next morning he was returned to his family a healthy child again. Photo courtesy of Sarah Newman
Mercy Hospital is clean, well staffed and has some of the most advanced medical equipment in the country. The medical staff sees nearly 1,000 patients each month. People travel great distances to get there because, as one patient said, "Patients get better at Mercy and they often do not at other hospitals." Medicine is shipped in from Europe to ensure its purity.

Particular emphasis is put on addressing the one in eight maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone. Culturally, there is significant resistance to delivering in a hospital. Mercy has provided training for more than 100 traditional birth attendants from within a 15-mile radius of the hospital. They received training on safe and hygienic delivery techniques, identifying pregnancy complications and when to refer to a hospital, and neonatal resuscitation. Mercy provides them free birthing supplies for sterile deliveries.

For the pregnant women who come to the hospital, routine care is given. All pregnant women are immunized against tetanus. Sierra Leone has one of the worst rates for neonatal and maternal tetanus in the world. Nutrition counseling is provided. Thanks to grant funding from the General Board of Global Ministries, Mercy provides HIV testing and counseling, as well as a malaria prevention program in which all pregnant women are given free treated bed nets. Mercy will continue to provide antenatal care and delivery to all HIV-positive mothers recommended by their birth attendant.

One of Mercy's many stories is about a 40-year-old mother of two who came to the hospital worried that she was losing weight. After being diagnosed with HIV, she began counseling and treatment. She received regular home visits from Mercy staff to monitor her progress and continues to come to Mercy for detailed medical assessments. The nearest HIV center for the poor is more than 100 miles away. A grant from GBGM made this treatment possible.

Mercy's microbiology and parasitology lab has a specialized microscope from Germany which helps diagnose leprosy. Photo courtesy of Sarah Newman
Two additions came to Mercy Hospital in 2009 that will significantly impact health care in Bo and perhaps through the country.

A pathogen surveillance research project -- conducted by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in partnership with Mercy's lab and Njala University -- is being established to help health care professionals better understand the effects of multiple pathogens on the diseases most encountered in Sierra Leone. This research project has brought state-of-the-art equipment to Sierra Leone, including a satellite dish and 24-hour Internet connectivity. This capability will allow opportunities in telemedicine consulting, diagnosis and training.

In 18 short months Mercy Hospital has partnered with numerous organizations to improve the quality and availability of healthcare in the poorest country in the world. Looking to the future, Mercy hopes to be able to establish a therapeutic feeding program and broaden the exposure to community education on nutrition, malaria prevention and HIV/AIDS. When funding becomes available, a surgical wing will be established.

Mercy Hospital is an Advance project (#15173A). Gifts to The Advance may be sent to:

General Advance #15173A, Advance GCFA
PO Box 9068, GPO
New York, NY 10087-9068

Donate by credit card by calling (888) 252-6174 or at



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