Sierra Leone hospital celebrates turnaround

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A certificate of recognition might look just normal and ordinary to some hospitals.

But for an institution that wriggled its way out of huge debts, threat of closure and poor management, the administration of United Methodist Kissy Hospital saw good reason to celebrate its award from the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries.

May 17 was a celebration day at the hospital, the largest health facility serving eastern Freetown, for its certificate of recognition from the board’s Global Health unit for “Most Improved Hospital Management.” 

Global Health presented the certificate a few weeks earlier during its fifth Pan-African Health Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. Partners from 20 countries presented their best practices and successful models implemented within their local communities and received ongoing training.

Two health facilities in Sierra Leone — United Methodist Kissy Hospital and United Methodist Health Center in Taiama — received the prestigious award.

“This certificate was based on the remarkable transformation of the management and administration of Kissy Hospital over the last two years,” said Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief & Global Health Unit.

In 2015, Global Ministries stopped funding support to Kissy hospital “due to audit concerns,” Ige told United Methodist News Service. But the hospital management board was “fully committed” to change, she said. A new hospital administrator was hired and a new health board coordinator appointed by Sierra Leone Bishop John Yambasu.

By April 2017, the hospital was covering 96.3 percent of its expenses through internally generated revenue rather than being dependent on external funding.

“This was because gaps in administrative and financial management processes had been identified and corrected, enabling the hospital to maximize its resources,” Ige explained.

“This is a testimony that addressing system inefficiencies is as vital to sustainability as much as funding support is,” she said.

The Kissy facility’s manager since January 2015, Joseph Mbogba, said the hospital had “huge outstanding bills” of up to 800 million Leones (U.S. $107,000). But Mbogba and other key administrative have followed the new financial policies, rules and regulations implemented when the hospital restructured.

“We followed those rules and regulations, we followed the structures that they put in place ... Today, we’ve paid up to 700 million Leones (about $94,000) in outstanding bills and we now pay salaries on the 25th of every month,” he said.

In addition, Mbogba said improvements have given the entire facility a facelift — most damaged beds were replaced with brand new ones and the offices of the administrator and community health officers and the private wards were improved. The wards were tiled with new porcelain tiles and the hospital compound was paved.

The hospital’s chronic power problem was addressed with a 24-hour supply of electricity, using the government main grid and a standby generator.

New financial controls and accountability measures mean the hospital is generating more income. For example, Mbogba said, records showed the pharmacy would sell drugs without recovering the cost, resulting in huge outstanding bills.

Mbogba said a significant part of the turnaround occurred because hospital management has been able to ensure internal controls. “We blocked leakages where the revenues were going and we actually disciplined staff,” he explained. “We also used the financial policies developed by the restructuring committee.”

Patient care has improved, too. “If you go round the hospital, you cannot smell any odor; the place is clean and decent,” he said. “There are trained and qualified staff who attend to patients. The customer care has been improved. And because of the way staff talk to patients, the treatments, quality of drugs given and the manner in which we do our counseling and all of that has helped the hospital greatly.”

Leonard Ben Gbloh, who was the acting hospital administrator during the restructuring period, agreed the facility has indeed made a tremendous leap.

“By the time we came in, the hospital was really in a very bad shape,” he said. “There was filth all around. The hospital was not able to generate income to pay the staff. Most of the needed machinery was in poor shape. There was need for an effective overhaul of the entire system in the hospital.”

He is especially proud of restructuring that addressed problems with the way finances were handled.

While some staff “felt offended” when the restructuring began, said Catherine Norman, Sierra Leone Conference medical coordinator, “here we are today celebrating the product of the work they did.” She expressed appreciation for all staff, both old and new, and recounted how the reporting system contributed to the award and encouraged unit heads to take documentation, reporting and accountability seriously.

Norman said the hospital was still struggling because of the liabilities accrued over the years. She predicted that would soon end, owing to the rapid progress now being made.

Yeabu Kamara, chairperson of the restructuring team, noted that the certificate of recognition means more work. “When you are given such honor, you should keep it up and work to surpass the standard for which it is awarded and gain more laurels,” she said, adding that hospitals are caregivers and God is the healer. “So, if you treat patients well, they will take the word out and let others know.”

Speaking on behalf of staff, physio-therapist Steven Moinina said they were very proud of the accomplishment. “The honor we have received through this certificate surpasses billions of Leones. For any hard-working staff, the best treasure is recognition for service,” he said, promising the staff will continue to work more and be more professional.

Yambasu offered prayers for the international recognition and for the staff and their families. “I feel so proud of you all,” the bishop said. “We want to move Kissy hospital from where it is to an even better place.”

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist News, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

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