More Beds

November 22 2020 | by

“ST. CATHERINE Ichuni Hospital is a beacon of hope for the local communities,” says Sister Jocinta Nanjala, hospital administrator. “It is the only hospital in the Ichuni area and serves a population of approximately 13,500 from the eight villages of Ichuni and its environs.” Increasing health care needs since its construction in 2015 sometimes resulted in a shortage of beds, with some patients having to sleep on the floor or, worse still, give birth on it. Thanks to a project financed by St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of this magazine, such occurrences have become a thing of the past.

The majority of people in Ichuni, Kissi district, Kenya, are below the poverty line and cannot afford basic needs and social services. Subsistence agriculture does not provide enough food for the survival of the growing population in spite of the relatively good climate for agriculture. “Retrogressive cultural beliefs have contributed to underdevelopment of the Kissi communities,” Sr. Jocinta explains. “Activities such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, and gender-based violence have resulted in increased violence against women, increasing HIV/AIDS infections and high levels of school dropouts among girls in the communities. To reverse this negative cultural trend, there is a need to improve education so that the people are able to emancipate themselves from the yoke of negative cultural beliefs.”


Holistic approach


The Sisters of the Blessed Virgin, a Catholic mission established in the Italian city of Cremona in 1610 by Madre Lucia Perotti, founded their first Kenyan mission in Tabaka, in 1964. From there they have spread through most of the dioceses in Kenya and Uganda. The Sisters’ attention is focused on a holistic approach to a person’s formation – spiritually, physically, and emotionally. “For over 50 years the Sisters have been striving to achieve this strategic mission through providing services such as education, health, working at orphanages and kindergartens, and offering pastoral service in parishes to the most vulnerable,” explains Sr. Jocinta. “The overall goal is to promote the memory of Jesus Christ by witnessing and preaching to the suffering of our time. Through various projects we are able to evangelise and promote social services that ensure integral human development.”


Hospital needed


In 2015 the Sisters recognised that a hospital was needed in Ichuni to provide patients with access to health care – the sick were having to travel long distances with the nearest referral hospital some 40 kilometres away, health care costs were escalating, and the population was growing. They mobilised the local community to donate materials – bricks, timber, sand – and skilled labour to get the hospital constructed. The completed hospital, situated on a one-acre plot of land donated by the local community to the Sisters, is jointly owned by the Sisters and the community. Its core mission is to reduce the incidence of mortality and morbidity. Primary medical services offered include: maternity services, pre- and post-natal care, vaccination and immunisation services, and general medical services. It also supports special health related activities and preventative programs such as literacy training, and workshops on low-cost methods of providing safe drinking water and hygienic latrines. Three clinical officers, seven nurses, two laboratory technicians, two chemists, and eight midwives work at the hospital together with other support staff. Eighty percent of the staff belong to the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin and do not draw a salary. The remaining staff are locals and receive a small salary. “The establishment of the hospital created hope among the local communities and villages,” says Sr. Jocinta. “Now, they can access quality health services at a subsidised rate more easily and conveniently.” The local population has also benefited from employment opportunities.


40 hospital beds


In order to avoid further instances of patients having to sleep or deliver their child on the floor, it was estimated that an additional 40 customizable beds were required – 25 in the maternity wing and 15 in the general admission ward. The total cost of the beds would be €18,600 of which €2,600 would be provided by the Ichuni Health Centre. A request for the remaining €16,000 was granted by St. Anthony’s Charities in October 2019.

The funds for the first phase of the project – procurement of the first 20 beds – were received the same month. The project was delayed by a few weeks, though, due to ongoing renovation works being carried out at the hospital. At the end of November 2019, the staff received training from the supplier on installation, maintenance, and management of the beds, and by the end of January 2020 the beds had been installed in the two hospital wards.

The second instalment was made in February 2020. “The implementation of the second phase of the project faced a lot of difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya,” Sr. Jocinta explains. “It was difficult to transport beds from Nairobi to Ichuni because of the stringent control on movement by the government in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19 but, after a series of trials we successfully managed to obtain the necessary documents from relevant government authorities to transport the beds to the hospital. At the hospital, the installation of the beds was slowed by social distancing that required people to be one metre apart. So, only a few people could install a bed at any given time, lowering the pace of installation.” However, thanks to the training the staff received in the first phase of the project, delays were kept to a minimum, and the remaining 20 beds had been successfully installed by the end of April 2020.


Great appreciation


Due to this inexpensive project to increase bed capacity, there are no longer bed shortages at St. Catherine’s. The beneficiaries are pregnant mothers, children, and other members of the local community seeking health services and hospital admission. It is estimated that some 3,000 people per year will benefit directly. Through the prudent use of its finances and income generated from its subsidised health services, the hospital plans to maintain and expand its future bedding provision.

“This project has been a blessing to us, the workers, and to patients at the hospital,” says Mrs. Boncheri, a nurse at the hospital who works mostly in the clinic, on the wards, and in the maternity department. “Before the realisation of this project we used to experience hard times due to not having sufficient beds. It was very saddening to see a patient in critical condition sleeping on the floor or an expectant mother delivering on the floor due to the lack of adequate beds. But this project has made our work more effective and now there is never an incidence of patients at the hospital having to sleep on the floor.”

“The local community, Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Province of Kenya and Uganda, and staff serving at the hospital greatly appreciate the generous help from St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony,” concludes Sr. Jocinta.

Updated on November 22 2020