Sandra Lako: Busy times for Welbodi

Sandra LakoMy lack of recent blog posts is by no means due to a lack of something to report. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Life at Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH) has been busy and there are many exciting activities to keep us, and our partners, occupied. Let me update you on what has happened at the children’s hospital over the last few months.

First of all, a new emergency room/intensive care wing opened in June, thanks to Cap Anamur, a German organisation working at ODCH.

The reconstruction of the neonatal unit is under way, funded by the United Nations Population Fund with oversight from the Welbodi Partnership. This very exciting and much needed project will double the size of the unit and provide a separate outpatient consultation room, an isolation room, a place for mothers to stay near their children, and more space overall. Last week we transferred the neonates to the new unit, and started reconstruction of the mothers’ lodge.

In July, a team of lab experts from the UK and Gambia visited ODCH to provide technical advice and training to ODCH lab technicians. This was part of a long term lab development project between Swansea University in the UK, the Tropical Health and Education Trust, the British Council, and the Oxted Trust, facilitated by the Welbodi Partnership. New equipment was installed and systems were put in place so that the laboratory services would be more efficient and beneficial to the patients.

Later in July, a team of students from King’s College London arrived in Freetown to work with Welbodi to conduct qualitative research on health seeking behaviour in the communities that surround ODCH. We hope the results will give us more insight into why children come to the hospital late and suggest ways to remove those barriers to access.

Recently the board members for the Sierra Leone Institute for Child Health (SLICH) had another successful quarterly meeting and approved a number of projects that had been proposed by ODCH staff to improve the quality of care provided at the hospital.

Meanwhile postgraduate training for doctors continues to move forward, thanks in large part to input from a Nigerian fellow of the West African College of Paediatrics, who has been working at ODCH for a year and a half. Starting next month, we will have paediatric consultants volunteering at ODCH for several months at a time to help with clinical teaching.

We are also working closely with our partners and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to establish a paediatric nurse training programme. At the same time, we are looking at how Welbodi can work with a local radiologist and radiographer to help them set up a training programme in radiography. In the coming years, we believe these training efforts will have an impact on the quality of paediatric care not only at ODCH but nationwide.

Needless to say, Welbodi and its partners are very busy, and ODCH is improving. There is still a long way to go, so it’s a good thing we are in this for the long haul. And, looking into the future, we are thrilled that the Welbodi Partnership has been awarded a three year grant from Comic Relief. These much needed funds will enable us to greatly expand our work at ODCH, focusing on training both medical and non-medical personnel, providing essential equipment, and investing in the surrounding communities to improve child health. Stay tuned for more news from Freetown.

Sandra Lako is a doctor from the Netherlands who previously spent four and a half years in Sierra Leone setting up and managing a paediatric 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 one in five children do not reach the age of 5.