How it all started
The Masanga Hospital was opened as a leprosy hospital in the middle of the jungle in 1964 as a joint venture between the Seventh Day
Adventists (“SDA”) and the Government of Sierra Leone (“GOSL”). SDA is a Christian organisation that has successfully sponsored healthcare and educational facilities throughout the developing world. A group of Sierra Leoneon Adventists based in the UK (“SLAA”) continue to support the hospital.
There is still a small community of leprosy patients in Masanga today. Leprosy is fully treatable and it represented just 5% of the Out Patient visits in 2012.
The hospital developed a good reputation in Sierra Leone. It is situated on a large campus on the side of the Pampan river in area of outstanding natural beauty. Over the
years an extensive infrastructure was established with wards, operating theatres, Out Patient department, service buildings and staff accommodation.
A violent civil war broke out in 1991 and lasted for 10 years. Masanga was located in the centre of rebel activity and the rebels used the hospital as a base. There are numerous stories of terrible atrocities and there are more amputees in Sierra Leone per head of population than any country in the world.
By 1997 the position was so bad the hospital was forced to close. The people of Masanga village kept faith and continued to maintain the site and stop the jungle from taking over completely. The damage to the buildings was extensive and made reopening the hospital even more challenging.
The hospital re-opened in 2006
In 2005 Dr Peter Bo Jørgensen, a Danish surgeon, decided to find one of the poorest locations in Africa to help create better healthcare.
He was introduced to Sierra Leone which was bottom of the UN development league table. The civil war had ended just 3 years earlier and the country was slowly recovering following democratic elections.
The civil war had destroyed the infrastructure, transport and communication, the government was weak and there was only a modest
private business sector. The education system was being rebuilt but lacked qualified teachers and good educational institutions. The children had not received proper schooling and therefore many young people lacked basic elementary skills. There was growing youth unemployment and this, along with widespread illiteracy provided fertile ground for political unrest and instability.
Large parts of the health sector were in ruins, and the country did not have the resources to get health back on track. There was a severe shortage of qualified health professionals – doctors, nurses, midwives and health workers and health facilities in the form of hospitals and health centers. Hospital equipment and medicines and materials for treatment was in short supply. There was a desperate need for international assistance to rebuild the country and healthcare system.
Dr Peter was introduced to the Masanga hospital and he and his partners saw the potential to re-open and rehabilitate the hospital. He formed the Association Friends of Masanga (“AFOM”) and with SLAA negotiated a 20 year concession from GOSL to run the hospital, with a 10 year review.
A vision is born
Masanga Hospital’s vision is to create growth and development and achieve sustainability with local funding, management and
staff. The fundamental objectives are to
- provide free and equal access to health care for the people
- educate local people to become healthcare professionals
- create growth and employment by creating businesses connected with the hospital
and in time hand over a thriving teaching hospital to GOSL when it has built its capabilities and funding to enable it to sustain the hospital for the long term.
- Masanga had built a good reputation before the civil war and it is easier to rebuild a reputation than build from scratch
- The people of Masanga have skills and commitment to the hospital
- It serves a rural community that is not served by government hospitals where the priority is urban centres
- It is in a beautiful location that is popular with visiting doctors and volunteers
- It has an infrastructure that can be refurbished for little cost
- It is special