Pharmacist swaps life in Manchester for Sierra Leone
Pharmacist Suzanne Thomas is swapping life in Manchester for
Sierra Leone as she takes a career break to volunteer at the Ola
During Children's Hospital with the Welbodi Partnership. The
39-year-old from Sale will be developing training programmes for
children's doctors and nurses to help improve child health in the
country for a year before returning to the Trust.
Suzanne, who has worked here for nearly nine years, has
previously volunteered in South Sudan and Tanzania. She said: "I am
a practising Christian and this has been a long standing ambition
of mine. Even before I did my A-Levels, I was interested in gaining
skills which could be used to benefit others. It was one of the
reasons I chose to do a pharmacy degree."
The hospital in Freetown is the country's only government
paediatric hospital and referral centre for sick children. It
is the only paediatric training facility for doctors and nurses but
often struggles to provide adequate care or training.
Welbodi volunteers train medical students, general and
specialist children's doctors, and nurses, many of whom will go on
to staff other health facilities across the country.
Suzanne said: "Local staff have the ideas but may not have the
system to implement and utilise them. The Welbodi Partnership is
very interested in strategic development and delivering sustainable
change. My job there will involve training pharmacy and
medical undergraduates as well as qualified health
Suzanne expects her working life in Ola During to be very
different to life at the Trust where she currently spends most of
the time working with adults. The Freetown hospital does not
have established services such as laboratories and radiology. There
is also a different attitude to seeking healthcare in Sierra Leone
as up until recently it had to be paid for but now it is free for
children under five. However, fees remain for older children and
there are other costs for parents such as transport and drugs not
on the government's essential list.
Suzanne said: "People often do not bring their children to
hospital until they are very sick, then it is down to the doctors
and nurses to try and turn this situation around. Infant mortality
is very high and that is partly why life expectancy is only about
Although Suzanne is looking forward to the challenges that lie
ahead, she will have to bid farewell to her family, friends and
colleagues. She said: "My family are pretty good about it. Of
course they will miss me and want me to be safe but they know that
this has always been my ambition."
She added: "The department have been very good about me taking a
career break and I am very grateful to them. The Chairman has been
very positive and actively encouraging and I am very fortunate the
NHS allows you to do this."
Notes to Editors:
- Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
makes up of Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Royal Manchester
Children's Hospital, Saint Mary's Hospital, University Dental
Hospital of Manchester and Community Services.
- The Welbodi Partnership supports the provision of paediatric
care in Sierra Leone, where child health statistics are the worst
in the world. For further information visit http://www.welbodipartnership.org/