Christian Health Association Sierra Leone
The Baptist Eye Hospital, Lunsar (BEHL) was founded in 1975 by the Baptist Convention Sierra Leone (BCSL) was once renowned centre for eye care before the over 10 years civil war. The hospital was established with the primary objective of providing eye care services to the people of Sierra Leone. This objective is still upheld and this is reflected in the activities carried out by the Hospital. Work resumed in Lunsar over the past 4 years and efforts are being made to enable the hospital regain its former glory.
The hospital has an outpatient department, wards with 70 beds capacity, operating theatre, optical shop with edging and assembly equipment, a mobile unit for screening, treating and making referrals to the base when and where necessary.
In 1982, a Blind Rehabilitation Project was established to cater for patients with lost vision who expressed willingness to be rehabilitated. The blind and other disabled were rehabilitated by introducing them into farming and handicraft or other forms of income generating activities.
Before the war, these institutions (the hospital and the Blind Rehabilitation) served the entire nation in addition to the neighbouring country, Guinea through the mobile unit operations. Patients from Mali, Senegal and Liberia have also made visits at our base in Lunsar for eye related treatment. The hospital was equipped with well motivated local staff and expatriate co-workers.
We have a training unit for Ophthalmic Nurses and Cataract Surgeons and many within the country have benefited greatly from the programme.
The principal financier of the hospital and rehabilitation programme was the Christophel Blinden Mission or Christian Blink Mission (CBM) whose contribution was in the form of personnel, vehicle, drugs and Ophthalmic equipment for the former. The latter rehabilitation – received full support by then. At present, the CBM has scaled down its support to the Hospital, while its support to the Blind Project is still ongoing.
The hospital at present does not generate enough income to offset even the cost of drugs because of low fees charged. The present economically low status of majority of our clients does not allow management to increase medical bills.
However, both the hospital and Blind projects suffered serious setbacks during the more than ten (10) years national conflict. Our infrastructure was vandalized, vehicles, medicines, machineries, operational equipment and other logistics looted, rendering the facility handicapped.
The Baptist Convention SL considering the level of investment made on both human and capital to the hospital and the services that were being needed by the Sierra Leone community had no alternative, but to relocate the disjointed activities of the hospital temporarily in Freetown and later in Lungi for three years. Following the end of the war, the hospital is back to its traditional base in Lunsar after the rehabilitation of some buildings, which was funded by DFID (Department for International Development).
The Blind Rehabilitation Project was resuscitated in 2007 as a supportive component with financial assistance from family friends in the Netherlands – one Dr. Jan Stilma and his wife. Fifty (55) blind cli9ents were helped with basic mobility training and agricultural inputs in the first year (2007). The number of clients has been reduced to 30 in 2008 due to the resources at our disposal.
Existing Initiatives and Resources in the Area
Reducing the cost of the services and maintaining high quality is one of the exciting challenges of health care in development countries. The greatest is how to lower the cost, but still maintain the effectiveness of medical treatment and how to provide a nationwide service, not just a service for the rich and the urban middle classes.
The Baptist Eye Hospital continues to provide reasonable quality services at much reduced costs or cost recovery basis. Using such a system, it is believed that the unit is able to be completely self-sufficient in providing quality care to everyone in the community even though many may be able to afford very little.
The structure of our programmes is such that it has both a health and community based which support each other.
The Community based rehabilitation, formerly Agricultural Rehabilitation for the Blind (ARB) workers to identify and send eye patients to hospital for treatment. The success of our services at both hospital base and outreach stations has encouraged and strengthened the acceptance of the Community Based worker within their deployment areas. Our purpose in the rehabilitation is to help the patients or clients to come to terms with their visual impairment, and to try to overcome and prevent as such as possible the disability and handicap.
Much is done to help people with visual impairment by implementing the following programme activities of the existing Community Based Rehabilitation Project. This will include:
The hospital has 1 Ophthalmologist, 4 theatre assistants, 2 Refractionists, 4 Laboratory Technicians, 4 Ophthalmic Nurses, 2 Nursing Aides, 2 Administrative Staff, 1 Driver, 1 Compound Supervisor, 3 Cleaners, 3 Security men and 3 Community Based Rehabilitation extension supervisors.
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