Sandra Lako on her return to Freetown

Sandra LakoAfter being away from Sierra Leone for a year, it is good to be back.

Previously I spent four and a half years in Sierra Leone working for an NGO, running an outpatient pediatric clinic. Now, I am working in the government-run Children’s Hospital, volunteering as medical coordinator for a UK-based charity called the Welbodi Partnership. The contrast in jobs is great but I am excited about this new role.

I am keen to find my way within the government system to contribute to bringing about positive change at the Children’s Hospital. I am looking forward to working alongside the national doctors to assist them where needed and to help bring them a step closer to their pediatric training through the post-graduate training program that Welbodi has initiated. Part of this project will include the development of the x-ray department and laboratory in order to work towards accreditation of the hospital as a teaching hospital. Big tasks I know, but not impossible.

I am also excited about teaching the nurses and encouraging them to carry out their nursing responsibilities well. I want the nursing staff to realise how important their job is and how we must all work together as a team in order to care for the patients well.

And of course, I hope to be able to help the children of Sierra Leone. I would love to be as clinically involved as possible but, there are many other aspects of patient care that I can address/influence such as: the use of fluid balance charts, proper use of medication charts, providing the hospital with more oxygen concentrators, introducing protocols to ensure standardized management, and good use of resources, etc.

The challenges will be great, but overcoming them will be even greater. Undoubtedly, I will make mistakes along the way, but as long as I learn from them it will be okay. I am here for a year (at least) and I hope that when I look back at my time here I can be pleased that Ola During Children’s Hospital has become a better place. Thankfully I am not on this journey alone and together with some key people in hospital management, the Welbodi team (on the ground and in the UK/USA), Professor Tamra, the medical officers, dedicated nursing staff and key people in the ministry we can do this. We may take a few steps forward and then one step back, but we will continue to move forward. And one day, Ola During Children’s Hospital will be a center of excellence in paediatric care.

Sandra Lako is a doctor from the Netherlands who previously spent 4 ½ years in Sierra Leone setting up and managing a pediatric outpatient clinic with an organisation called Mercy Ships. After a year at home, she returned to Sierra Leone to volunteer as medical coordinator with the Welbodi Partnership, a UK-based charity supporting the only government-run children’s hospital in a country where 1 in 5 children do not reach the age of five.