St. Albert’s Mission hospital News, July 2009-July 2010

Note: This post was written by Dr. Elizabeth Tarira, director of St. Albert’s Mission Hospital.

Zimbabwe is currently preparing for a home grown constitution, but difficulties are being encountered here and there because some people are pushing for a constitution (Kariba Draft) that was tailored by the ruling party alone.

The economic crisis is still far to be over and even made worse by the global crisis that has its deep impact upon the poor countries as well. In our country the rich are becoming richer, while the poor are becoming poorer.

Just a brief summary of what we went through and of what awaits us as health providers:

► Last year our country, as you know, had over 4,000 deaths due to cholera. The hygiene standards and clean water supply has not improved much. We thank God that this year the epidemic did not strike, though sporadic cases surfaced countrywide.

► Instead this year people are dying of malaria. The drugs are in short supply and health institutions are using expired medications dumped on us as a country by some pharmaceutical companies. The District of Centenary under the supervision of St Albert’s Mission Hospital refused to use the expired preparations. We are blessed because we raised an SOS to the friends in Modena (Luisa Guidotti Missionary Group) who bought drugs for us in Germany. These were worth over €46,000. Countrywide the shelf life has been extended up to the end of this July (1 year extension), but who knows if our government will be able to buy sufficient drugs for the whole country, since the Coartem (a combination of artemether and lumefantrine) is very expensive. Not only malaria is a problem; the children are of measles. So far over 300 children have died among the Apostolic Sects who only believe in prayer, laying of hands and using water only! In the country there is no law that protects these innocent children who are denied care.

► The Hospital is always full of patients coming from neighboring districts which do not have doctors or medications.

► The water purification plant sponsored by the friends of Ferrara will be commissioned this year—if the needed materials arrive with the container on its way to St Albert’s. Engineers from Italy were here in February but because of insurmountable difficulties—[there was no supply of disinfectants for the water—and the engineers] had to go back without being able to complete the job.

► St Albert’s has another new look! Friends from Modena have helped us construct a guest house for our friends from all over the world. It is still to be completed. Most probably a team of five volunteers from Rock Nor War (Italian NGO) will arrive to finish the roofing, plumbing, electricity, flooring and painting etc.

 ► The autoclave bought from Korea, through CESVI and the Italian Cooperation has to be repaired while new! The imported technician used a high voltage of electricity and burnt some components of the machine. Spares have to come from the country of origin.

► This year the rains have been erratic so the harvest has been poor countrywide, so we are expecting problems of hunger etc. Malnutrition and stunting among the children is already rising.

► The electricity supply has not improved. As usual the lights come when we are in bed and are switched off around 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. The Hospital is practically running on diesel engines during the day for emergencies. What a lot of costly fuel we need! If we were in the Gulf of Mexico (man-made disaster) we could try to capture the oil spilling in the sea!

 In spite of all the above “semi-nice news,” St Albert’s Mission Hospital received a lot of support from all corners of the world. We are truly grateful.

  • Better Health for Africa NGO (formed by the American Friends of St Albert’s Hospital) has bought for the Hospital an automatic X-ray film processor that was urgently needed at a cost of €3,787. Now we are able to have imaging diagnostics done professionally. Consumables, i.e. X-ray films, were sponsored by Thomas Taschback at a cost of $2,192.
  • The Hospital received a new CD4 machine, an ultrasound machine, two oxygen concentrators, suction machines, Sonicaid [a fetal heart monitor], air conditioning for the theatre, and drugs from CESVI and the Italian Cooperation. A bore hole was sunk for the District staff and some drip irrigation was installed for the orphan garden project. All the above mentioned items and other works done had a total cost of around €200,000. Our gratitude cannot be expressed in words for such a huge support.
  • All the eleven clinics under the supervision of St Albert’s Mission Hospital have been refurbished, solar lights installed, water supply secured, communication radios fitted, work suits and basic drugs supplied. Thanks to HELP Germany, our faithful partner since the year 2000. The quotated cost was of €176,926-67. The Hospital benefited as well [from] linen, materials to repair the water system etc.
  • The Skills Training School for the orphans out of school is on going with the support of CESVI. This program might wind up in 2011, when the funding ends. This program has enabled some of the orphans to self sustain in these hard times. They can do something for themselves at home running small projects.
  • The orphans being assisted to go to school have reached a number of 600! These children are the future of our country. Educating girls will also mean reducing the incidence of HIV infection and thus contributing to the Millennium Development Goal targets set for 2015. Education is empowerment! Women are a vulnerable group once enlightened of their rights they will be able to defend self better against exploitation. We sincerely thank those generous people helping the children to go to school.

 After having said this long litany; what can I add more? There is still a lot to say:

The Hospital has some outstanding challenges to address as a matter of urgency. The Hospital does not have an income except chickens, goats, bags of soya and some buckets of maize. This is the payment [we receive] for services. The poor people in the rural areas do not have the “green buck” i.e. the US dollar [that is] our official currency now, but the Hospital must use hard currency at some point.

  1. To keep the agriculture project on going, we need to service the tractor. This is requiring $2,000. Currently [it] is not moving and the work has to carry on.
  2. To put up a 5,000 liter tank for the new guest house we need $2,500. We would not like that our friends when they visit us they continue to suffer without water to brush their teeth when the water is not available.
  3. The physiotherapy department is in need of a Marathon Tread Mill that costs $3,500.
  4. We need diesel tank storage with its stand. Since we run the generators we have to store the fuel safely otherwise we destroy the engines using dirty fuel stored in rusty containers. One of the tanks exploded and we lost 500 liters of the precious diesel. What a pain! An accident that could not be avoided. This will cost $1,500.
  5. The kitchen is in need of a bain-marie [water bath] of four compartments for serving food to the patients. This is costing $2,800.
  6. The Hospital has an outstanding electricity bill of $22.000 to settle. We are afraid that soon the electricity will be disconnected and to reconnect it again we will need even more money. This seems a paradox, we cry we have no electricity but the bill is so high. Since the Hospital does not sleep, when the lights come during the night, the electric motors for pumping water, the laundry, the X-ray, the Laboratory and the sterilizing of the theatre needs all resume as soon as the lights come. The wards will have lights etc, so we consume energy.
  7. The laboratory needs the three following equipments. Since we are putting patients on antiretroviral drugs against AIDS, we need to know how the livers of these patience function especially taking a huge cocktail drugs. One patient can be on AIDS drugs, tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhea, mengitis all at one time. This is very common since their immunity is very low.

        8.  Next is the Mothers’ Shelter, or a Maternity Home as others would call it.

The Waiting Mothers’ Shelter has become too small. Many at risk pregnant women flock to our Hospital because the doctors are always there and the theatre is functional. Just imagine 120 pregnant women sleeping in five rooms (5) that are 5 x 5 meters big! It translates 24 pregnant women all sleeping in one room with all their belongings: pots, plates, food, suitcases of clothes, you name it all! Some of these women stay 2-4 weeks waiting to deliver. At Home they cannot stay because transport will not be available when the labor starts: Clever babies always preferring to be born during the night. Even during the day, public transport is scarcely available. Some of the women sleep outside on the veranda, but when it is cold like now it’s really pathetic. When it is hot the mosquitoes make a feast on their blood infecting them also the malaria parasite. It never rains but it pours! To expand this Shelter adding other five rooms we need over $60,000. Having such a scenario before the eyes; only tears can express the pain!

Well wishers can pick up a “challenge” they would like to address. We truly believe that God hears the cry of the poor. The fact that I can send this mail to friends is already lightening the burden for me.

Just a line of my personal news: I am “co-habiting” with my breast cancer in a serene atmosphere. This Sunday I am leaving for Italy for the medical check-ups. This is a third medical trip am undertaking after the operation in October last year.

May God bless you all!

Your friend of always,

Elizabeth Tarira (Dr)

On behalf of St Albert’s Hospital Executive