United Methodist hospital gets lifesaving surgical wing

Lahai said it was a challenge to provide medical services before the surgery center. Women in labor needing a cesarean section had to be referred to other hospitals because Mercy did not have the facilities to handle the surgeries.

With the addition of a new surgical center, pregnant women who come to United Methodist Mercy Hospital (Advance ##15173A) to deliver their babies will no longer have to fear losing their lives, said the hospital's administrator.

"Mercy Hospital now has all it takes for safe delivery for both mother and child," Jinah Lahai said.

The $140,000 surgery wing will allow doctors to perform complex medical procedures, including cesarean sections.

"In such circumstances, we would make referrals, and delays along the line had once in a while led to fatalities. I want to say all of that is now over, because women in labor visiting our facilities will not have the fear of losing their lives," she said.

The hospital is now equipped with two operating rooms and male and female surgery wards with trained surgical staff. It can accommodate 50 patients, up from 25 previously, Lahai said. Resident Bishop John K. Yambasu led the dedication of the new wing on Jan. 18, describing the process of getting a surgical unit for Mercy Hospital as "a very, very long dream come true."

The bishop said he appreciated Helping Children Worldwide, a partner of Mercy Hospital, which raised the funds for construction and equipment. He praised members of the organization for their passion, dedication and commitment.

Helping Children Worldwide has a medical advisory group of doctors, Melody Curtiss, Helping Children Worldwide executive director said, who work with Mercy's medical team — in relationship with the Medical University of South Carolina — to support their dedication to operating under the highest medical standards.

Dr. Dennis Marke, chairman of the Sierra Leone Conference health board, said approximately 2 billion people worldwide lack access to emergency and essential surgical care. Most of the need is in rural and marginalized populations living in low and middle-income countries where the poorest one-third of the world's population receive only 3.5 percent of all surgical procedures.

The lack of surgical care takes a serious human and economic toll and can lead to acute, life-threatening complications, he said.

"Despite such a surgical imbalance around the world, surgery is still the neglected stepchild of global health. No global funding organization focuses specifically on the provision of surgical care, and none of the major donors are willing to support and acknowledge surgery as an imperative part of global public health," Marke said.

"This is where (The United Methodist Church) in Sierra Leone stands out … by prioritizing the provision of surgical care as an integral part of its healthcare service delivery, he said

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries also helps support the hospital through its Advance program. The mission agency's "Abundant Health" campaign aims to reach 1 million children with lifesaving interventions by 2020. The focus is on communities, primarily in Africa, with high child mortality rates from preventable causes.

"I am happy that today, the dream of a functional surgical building has come true. With this building, Mercy Hospital has now been empowered to provide the needed health care, not only to the people of Bo, but the entire district and even beyond," Norman said.

Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh, Bo District medical officer, said surgery has proven to be highly beneficial in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and reducing the incidence of many health complications.

Phileas Jusu, director of communications, UMC, Sierra Leone.

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