Christian Health Association Sierra Leone
The rapid spread of Christianity was due to different reasons. The gospel message was welcomed as good news of love and hope and triumph over fear of the spirit world. There was also the desire of Provincial Chiefs and their people to have access to the new resources that were becoming readily available through the mission (Methodist Mission). These included schools, clinics and hospitals.
Segbwema had seen Methodist work spread in 1908 Rev. James Walton followed later by Rev. Henry N. Medd. Rev. N. Medd, a Methodist Minister from Ireland, who with his wife, Alice served in Segbwema, Sierra Leone, 1919 – 1928. Their story is interesting. In those days, there were few roads and fewer vehicles. The Medds arrived in Freetown by ship and then transferred to a small boat which carried them and their loads up river to Mattru Jong from whence they walked with Porters carrying their bags on their heads. They spent some time in Bandajuma Sowa in the South and eventually they arrived in Segbwema in the East where Mrs. Alice Medd started a Maternity Clinic on the Mission Compound about 1920.
This small clinic soon expanded to become the Wesley Guild Hospital, Segbwema in 1930, later renamed the Nixon Memorial Methodist Hospital, Segbwema. The hospital owes its existence to Alice Medd. Segbwema girls have been named Alice down through the years because of the past history of Mrs. Alice Medd.
There were early superstition about the Midwifery practiced by Mrs. Medd and there was initial reluctance on the part of local Mende people to support the clinic.
Later, when Mrs. Medd’s clinic moved to the present hospital site, one of the first baby to be born was Kenneth P.G. Conteh who later became the first African Principal of Wesley Secondary School in Segbwema.
Later, another retired Irish Missionary, Sister Olly Robertson from Cork was sent. Robertson had served as a Missionary Nurse in Nigeria before she was sent to Segbwema where she did much to develop maternity services and became sister tutor of the Nursing School. During the Second World War, when there was no resident doctor for three years, she had to act as a Medical Superintendent and was required to perform Emergency Surgery.
Missionary doctors and nurses were appointed to the Methodist Hospital at Segbwema, later named Nixon Memorial Hospital after its benefactor Alderman Nixon of New Castle on Tyne, an uncle of Rev. Sidney Nixon Groves who later became the first Chairman of the Provincial District of the Methodist Church. Dr. Mary Groves, his wife, who is now one of the founders of Friends of Nixon Charity Organization in UK, worked as a doctor in both Kailahun and Kenema Districts. The Medical and Nursing personnel were responsible for training Nurses, Midwives and Hospital Administrative staff. They helped develop village clinics and nutrition centre, concentrating on mother and baby care, malnutrition and Lassa fever.
The services of this hospital started spreading gradually in other parts within Kailahun District. In 1949, Leslie, who had been appointed to the Bunumbu Circuit where there was church sponsored Teacher Training College, used his vehicle more than one occasion to help pregnant mothers get to the hospital in time, the first time such help was required, soon after he arrived in Bunumbu, was for the birth of twins. One twin was born in a house in a town but the second was delayed. Leslie was called upon by the women to take the distressed mother to the Wesley Guild Hospital in Segbwema. The 15 miles journey from Bunumbu to Segbwema was bumpy and rough road. After their arrival the missionary maternity sister explained late that the bumpy journey was beneficial and the second twin was quickly born. There were superstition about twins and some communities were less than welcoming of the second child to be born. Diseases which were becoming rare in Europe were still rife including Polio, Yaws and Tuberculosis. With regard to this, an extension Clinic from Methodist Mission Hospital at Segbwema had been built in Bunumbu and Sandaru and these clinics were combating these and other illnesses.
The Traditional Healers were a mixed blessing. On the positive side, some of them were experts in herbalist treatments where modern facilities were non-existent or unaffordable. Sister Alice Medd, including other women, played no small role in persuading Mende men and women who were used to traditional heading methods, to avail of the new health care services. A Maternity Clinic was opened as an extension of the Methodist Mission Hospital at Segbwema and the infant mortality rate of 60% was reduced as more missionary medical personnel were sent to the mission hospital at Segbwema.
In 1998, due to the rebel war in Sierra Leone, Nixon Memorial Methodist Hospital at Segbwema was looted, vandalized and with the effect of that, the Hospital was displaced in Kenema which was running nearly as a clinic. Even though, things were very hard and difficult for Nixon Hospital to survive as before, it was still attending to some of its responsibilities if not all.
In 2004, through God’s provision, Nixon Memorial Methodist Hospital returned to Segbwema and it was manned by only one doctor, Dr. Tamba Missa and few other medical personnel, using the under five clinic as a consultation room. Through assistance from some partners from UK and Sierra Leone, Nixon Hospital was able to rehabilitate much of its buildings and upgraded the services as it is today. In 2005, the nursing school was moved from Kenema to Segbwema through the help of one Mr. Michael M. Karimu who was the Principal Tutor.
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