We use cookies to help us improve the website and your experience using it. You may delete and block all cookies from this site at any time. However, please note this may result in parts of the site no longer working correctly. If you continue without changing your settings we will assume you are happy to receive all cookies on this site.


Suzanne's life in Sierra Leone

Suzanne has managed to spare the time to send us an update about her life in Sierra Leone, both professional and social! Here is her story...

December 2011

HospitalThis job is quite unlike any other! As Welbodi is here to assist and support the local staff, implementation of changes is not solely in our hands and so there can be many unexpected hurdles along the way. One of my key roles is to help support the delivery of the postgraduate training programme for doctors who want to specialist in paediatrics. At the moment we are working towards getting the hospital accredited with the West African College of Physicians. This means that it must meet certain standards in terms of equipment and staffing.. To this end I have been working on preparing two on-calls rooms and a library for the doctors to use. This has involved commissioning a carpenter, finding cleaners, buying all sorts of things and dusting down some random books!

Meanwhile we continue to meet with key personnel at government level to engage their support for accreditation, as there are still several areas which need attention including laboratory services, medical records and the lack of X-ray facilities and trained radiographers. 

Funding for the trainees to go to Ghana did not materialise, so for now they are still with us. One area that I would like to contribute to is the use of logbooks and educational meetings to stimulate appropriate learning and application of theory into good practice. The other side of my work is more pharmacy related. This week I have been supporting a pilot project to introduce a new drug chart on one of the wards. It has taken some while to get to the pilot stage but if it is successful, the plan is to use it across the whole hospital. Hopefully this will help reduce errors in drug administration, make it easier for doctors to review their prescribing and for pharmacy staff to record their dispensing.

Another project I have inherited from a former colleague is local production of alcohol hand rub. I'm not sure if this will get off the ground or not, but could potentially be very helpful in a hospital where running water is limited.

BeachSo after a long week of work and traffic it is good to relax at the weekends. There are some beautiful beaches just outside of Freetown so it's always nice to grab an opportunity to visit for the day. The sea is so warm and you can't beat the views you get when swimming in the sea . And there is always get a nice plate of fish or prawns to eat! When I can't get to the beach I try to swim at the pool on the UN compound. It's hard to get exercise here so I really enjoy using the pool.

At the end of October my sister and a mutual friend came to visit so we had a great week going on some trips outside of Freetown. Having survived a slightly worrying boat ride, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of Banana Islands followed by a stay at Tacuguma Chimpanzee Rehab Centre. We loved watching the chimps and staying in in the forest! At the end of the week we stayed in one of the better hotels in Freetown, to celebrate my birthday in  some style! It was a lot of fun and it was good to have some time off work. My actual birthday was a few days after they left, and I had a nice meal out with friends and colleagues on that day.

You could write a book about the street life in Freetown. It's loud and colourful. Everyone has something to sell! And you see all sorts of things being carried around - often cleverly balanced on heads! You don't even have to get out of the car to shop … vendors will come to you! So on our way home we often have fun buying snacks such as plantain chips or popcorn as we sit in the traffic!

The Welbodi Partnership are still looking for consultant paediatricians who might be interested in volunteering with us for three months or longer. Anyone who is interested can email me for further information at suzanne@welbodipartnership.org

June 2012

ViewThe last few months have certainly been the busiest for me work wise. April ended up having a big training focus. Firstly I was invited to go to Kenema to help facilitate a three day workshop on mentorship for nurses. It was organised by a VSO nurse and the aim was to help equip qualified nurses who train student nurses on the wards. It was a lot of fun and I was especially inspired by the creativity that went into planning it.

Soon after that we ran five days of resuscitation training for the nurses at our own hospital. It was good to see the nurses taking in the lecture material and then practising on the dolls! Following some training the new drug chart was
finally rolled out across the whole hospital o 1st May. All things considered it has been well received. One exciting development has been supporting the hospital pharmacist in visiting the wards to review the drug charts. Although this is something that is taught during the pharmacy degree course, it is rare to find a pharmacist contributing to clinical
care on the wards in this way. Jatu has done really well and there have been some good conversations with the doctors about prescribing issues as a result.

Welbodi recently provided some funding, on the request of the chief technician, for technician training. This was the
first time this had been done and we had some good discussions about ways to improve pharmacy services. Meanwhile we are still working hard to start specialist training for doctors who want to become paediatricians.

We have had some positive meetings with key people recently. One document that I have written to outline the outstanding issues has been passed to the Minister of Health so we hope she takes notice! Another piece of work for me right now is to liaise with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK, who are going to partner with us in finding consultant paediatricians who are willing to come and share their skills here. So busy, busy, busy!

So what is the hospital like?

Like any hospital in the UK, patients arriving at Ola During Children's Hospital will need to register and see the triage nurses. Care for those who are under five years old is free so the majority of our patients fall into this category. The hospital has 150 beds but as these are adult sized beds it's not uncommon for two or even three small children to share one bed.

We are in the rainy season now so our numbers are increasing significantly as the mosquitoes proliferate and spread
malaria. In the emergency room and intensive care unit you will find oxygen concentrators and some monitors but there is not enough to provide them on the general wards.

One relative must stay with the patient at all times-they are responsible for all the personal care required for their
child. They are also the guardians of the medication issued for their child. The nurses are responsible for giving the medicines. The choice of drugs available in the hospital is extremely limited, although what we have is in line with WHO guidelines and we usually have enough supplies. Parents have to buy any medicines that the hospital doesn't have at an outside pharmacy.

Doctors do rounds everyday except Sunday, and they struggle with the lack of diagnostic options available to them. Our laboratory service can do some basic tests (but no microbiology or electrolytes). There are serious frustrations
for all … doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab staff and not least for the parents.

Too many of our children do not make it but there are also amazing examples of resilient little ones who pull through because they have had the opportunity to come to the only children's hospital in the country. Much has improved and there is still lots to do!

Sierra Leone...Land that we love

CakesThis is the motto for Sierra Leone and Independence Day was a good time to find out more about it. The 27th April is a national holiday but for hospital staff it's pretty much a normal working day. As it coincided with our resuscitation training course we also ended up spending some of that day in the hospital. We were determined that it would be fun so I made some fairy cakes decorated with little flags for their morning break. Offering them around led to a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem which was great, as I'd never heard it before! The traditional celebration for this day is the preparation of carnival floats by different communities, which are pushed around town very late on the night before the day itself. We missed them on the night but managed to find some on display the next day. They can take weeks to prepare and portray different scenes related to Salone life.