St Alberts Mission Hospital
We are home, arrived at Logan this morning after spending slightly more than 30 hours in transit. As you would expect, I am exhausted, but exhilarated and determined to find ways to be helpful to the wonderful people whom we worked with at St. Albert's Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe. Their needs are endless, but so is their commitment.
One of the most interesting and successful parts of the hospital complex is the maternity house--more about that later.On site, they also have a farm to raise vegetables to feed the staff and the patients (patient's families are asked to supply their own food, but many can't, so they are fed, too), a primary school, and an orphans' house. There are a number of small houses for some of the staff while others live in a nearby village. A new crisis arose while we were there. There was a leak in the water tower that contaminated the water used in the hospital--imagine a surgeon scrubbing while someone pours water from a pitcher on her hands.This also meant no water in the faucets at the school or other buildings. The repair cost will be $20,000--a vast sum in that part of the world. They trust that providence will provide.
The background of this wonderful maternity house starts with the alarming rate of maternal and infant mortality that was the case in Zimbabwe and many other low resource countries. Rural hospitals like St. Albert's provide care for people in a very large geographical area, 140,000 of them to be specific, most of whom are indigent. The problem of safe delivery for mother and child is daunting. The solution has been to construct a domiciliary facility on the hospital grounds in which the women can live during the final four weeks of gestation. Any problems that develop can be dealt with competently by experienced staff who are at at nearby location on the campus.
We were led through a series of two gates and entered a small campus that housed dormitory like rooms for up to 120 women. About that many were there to greet us this morning. And greet us they did (See above video). At the matron's signal they approached the path on which we walked, faced us, and then broke into a lovely song, in Shona, that in essence bid welcome to their guests-a welcome such as we never had before, with clapping, swaying, continuous laughter and probably one boat load of curiosity. Broad smiles graced many faces, the women (actually girls in many cases) clad in colorful shawls, knitted woolen caps (its been chilly here) and sandals. They sat on steps outside the rooms while the matron explained who we are, why we are visiting, and then I took a brief opportunity to describe our reactions to the work being done at the hospital, and most of all, wish them healthy babies and healthy lives. The rooms we visited were small, housing 5 beds closely apposed; in the larger, newer section, a dormitory room was fitted with eight cots. The women use outhouses that are sited behind the dormitories, adjacent to which is a laundry area for doing their wash. Separated by 100 yards is an outdoor cooking area, embodied by a 100 foot long fireplace on which each of the women prepare their meals-usually the staple ZsaZsa (maize) to which is added protein and spices, depending on one's preferences. A most notable fact relates to the bonding. That occurs. When one of the room mates goes into labor, all the others go with her to labor and delivery to support and encourage her. For this major life event, they are her family!
This approach has proven to be so successful (St. Albert's maternity home is the largest in the country) that other hospitals have done the same thing. The rural clinics (12) that St. Albert' oversees and staffs have small maternity houses (a few beds) for women who have had multiple uncomplicated live births and are good bets to have another such delivery. All high risk patients come in to the main hospital. The charge, $1! That's unreal and they know it.
This is a place of miracle.