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Faith First at Sierra Leone's Kissy Hospital

Kissy United Methodist Hospital serves one of the poorest neighborhoods in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The hospital relies on partnerships with United Methodist churches and organizations to provide first class medical care to patients who might not have the means to pay for that care.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This video was done in March, 2014 and soon after those in Sierra Leone were faced with the scurge of Ebola. The hospital was closed in November, 2014 when Dr. Salia, interviewed in this piece, tested positive for Ebola. He was airlifted to the U.S. for treatment on Nov. 15 but sadly he died on November 17.

Bishop John K. Yambasu also passed away on August 16, 2020 in a car accident just outside of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Yambasu was traveling to attend a funeral. Bishop Yambasu is survived by his wife, Millicent, and their five children — Rebecca, Adima, John, Emmanuel and Elizabeth.

(June 2, 2014)

Bishop John Yambasu: "We are about one of the best hospitals in Sierra Leone. And the fact that we can have patients coming in from Liberia and Guinea, you know, testifies to that point."

This young mother brought her baby to Kissy General Hospital in critical condition, crying nonstop and unable to eat. Doctors quickly diagnosed the child with malaria and began treatment -to her mother's relief.

Mother of baby with malaria: "So, I tell the hospital, 'Thank you, plenty, plenty, thank you." I am happy for that."

For 30 years, Kissy has served one of the poorest communities in Freetown. The 60-bed United Methodist hospital is part of a larger community outreach which includes a school, an eye clinic, and a newly-updated maternal and child health facility. Bishop John Yambasu says when operating budgets run short, the commitment of the staff keeps the facility going.

Bishop John K. Yambasu, Sierra Leone: "We tell our doctors that we are a mission hospital. First, give the treatment to the person. Make sure the person receives the best treatment, and then you ask for money. About 60 to 70% of the patients that come into this hospital really do not have the resources to pay their bills. And so we augment that. We underwrite that. And that's where we need partners to come in."

Partnerships with UMCOR, the Indiana Conference, The Advance, and groups like Operation Classroom help pay doctor's salaries and have provided necessary upgrades like a water purification system and electric generators. Bishop Yambasu is grateful that churches within the United Methodist connection are investing in the people of Sierra Leone.

Bishop John Yambasu: "From my experience as a missionary, you know, 10 years in sub-Saharan Africa, I have realized how crucial health is in the life of any nation. You cannot get a child to go to school when that child is not healthy. You cannot have a teacher to be effective teacher when the teacher is unhealthy. And so I believe that for us to have all of these others fall in place, the first thing we have to do is to ensure that we provide health for our people."

Doctor Martin Salia shares this holistic vision. The skilled surgeon took a pay cut to work at Kissy Hospital, but says he believes God called him to serve patients here.

Dr. Martin Salia, Kissy Hospital Staff Surgeon: "I was trained as a Christian surgeon. And part of our training enters spiritual and physical aspect of the training. And so by the time you finish your training you are more or less like the pastor, you become a pastor. And so whenever we want to start surgery we pray. I am just being used as an instrument or as a surgeon to carry out God's own plan for that person's life." 

Kissy relies on partners to provide basics like routine drugs, updated equipment, and fuel to run the generator. The bishop's vision is to extend that circle of partners to see more lives saved and improved through an expansion in facilities and staff. 

Bishop John Yambasu: "We have an ambulance drive through that will come from that way, come right into here, drop off the patient and then move out back into the street."

While government coverage has come a long way in Sierra Leone, Christian care is Kissy's specialty and The United Methodist Church is committed to a healthy future for Kissy Hospital.

Dr. Martin Salia "We want to make this hospital an excellent hospital. Faith has been a very, very strong tool in my box. And it has worked tremendously."


Learn more about how The United Methodist Church is responding to the Ebola crisis. 

Published July 23, 2014

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