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Ganta United Methodist Hospital provides hope in Liberia

 


Ganta United Methodist Hospital provides hope in Liberia

Feb. 1, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

Two years ago, Patience Yah Sendolo of Gebeibini Town, Liberia, lost her sight because of cataracts.

The 16-year-old dropped out of school. Her parents were desperate to help her, but could not afford to take her to Monrovia, the capital, for surgery.

Hope for the family was restored when the outreach team from the eye project at Ganta United Methodist Hospital arrived in a Jeep for Patience and a family member. The cataracts were removed at the hospital and her sight restored. 

That is just one of the success stories at Ganta Hospital, according to Victor Doolaken Taryor, the hospital’s acting administrator and associate administrator for personnel and special projects. The hospital reopened last March after being damaged by both government and rebel forces the previous year.

Located in northeastern Liberia, Ganta serves an area with more than 450,000 inhabitants, along with thousands of Liberians who are being repatriated after fleeing to Guinea. Refugees from Cote d’Ivoire also are being settled in the region.

“As the only viable medical service provider in the region, Ganta Hospital needs to strengthen her response capacity to accommodate the anticipated influx,” Taryor said in his report last fall. “Already, the medical needs of the war-wearied population are so great.”

Cherian Thomas, an executive with the health and relief unit of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said in late January that the staff has the hospital running at full steam again. “They’ve done a remarkable job of starting it again from scratch,” he added.

The missionary couple serving at Ganta Mission Station, Mary and Herbert Zigbuo, also should be credited “for doing a great job” reviving the hospital, he said.

Services provided at Ganta include an outpatient clinic, obstetric, pediatric and ophthalmic care, and surgical and laboratory services. Two physicians – an ophthalmologist and a general practitioner with surgical skills – staff the hospital.

The most recent statistics, for August through October 2004, show 6,218 outpatient visits, 962 inpatient admissions, 1,091 prenatal clinic visits and 475 surgeries. Of the 130 births, 85 were normal vaginal deliveries and 45 required Caesarian sections. Most of the 39 deaths — about 4 percent of the inpatient population — were of patients admitted in very critical condition, the hospital reported.

Eye surgery began on Oct. 15, with 19 cataract cases completed by the end of the month. Partnership with the Christian Blindenmission has made possible the introduction of intraocular lens to enhance vision, according to Taryor. Use of the lens is a new medical technology in Liberia. 

Taryor noted receiving payments from patients can be difficult, particularly because it often costs people so much to reach the hospital by commercial vehicles. “As our custom, we usually respond with or without money — hoping that the bill will be settled later,” he said.

Patients do what they can. After Bob Gannie, 34, underwent several surgeries last July for typhoid perforation of the bowel, he had accumulated a bill of U.S.$438. His family managed to scrape up $26 in cash and contributed a goat and some chickens to the hospital. Gannie and his mother also attended chapel services at the hospital during his recovery period.

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries had invested $300,000 in renovations at Ganta Hospital when its buildings were ruined in 2003. In addition, a three-year, $1.2 million project — a prosthetic and orthopedic workshop — by the U.S. Agency for International Development was coming to an end as the destruction occurred.

Although some initial repairs were made, a more thorough renovation started last September, according to Taryor. A $30,000 grant from the board’s department of health and welfare has allowed work on a wing that houses the pediatric, obstetric and general private and semi-private patients.

Housing also has been restored for the nurse anesthetist, the accountant, the warehouse supervisor and a new doctor.

The Board of Global Ministries is giving Ganta Hospital a quarterly grant of $12,000 to assist with operating expenses, Thomas said.

Visiting work teams from the United States and Germany provided various types of assistance throughout the fall. Among them were Charles Thomas of the denomination’s Mississippi Annual (regional) Conference, who helped repair the water system, and his wife, Nelda Thomas, a physical therapist, who conducted a training workshop.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has set up a separate fund for rebuilding Ganta Hospital. Donations can be designated to UMCOR Advance No. 150385 and dropped in church collection plates or mailed to 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Credit-card donations can be made by calling toll-free (800) 554-8583.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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