A premature baby lies in an incubator at Dabou Methodist Hospital in Dabou, Côte d'Ivoire, hub of the church's healthcare system in this West African nation. The World Health Organization has issued guidelines to improve the immediate care of premature babies in the context of an Ebola outbreak.
A gleaming white and bright blue arch sits back slightly from the road, with “Hospital Methodiste” blazing in tall red letters across the top.
This small hospital about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Abidjan, the economic center of Côte d’Ivoire, has a reputation for quality medical care that makes it loom large in the importance of many people’s lives.
On a Tuesday in January, the maternity ward had 15 babies, including a tiny set of premature twins in intensive care incubators.
.“Many women travel from Abidjan to Dabou to have their babies in this hospital,” said Alfred Degny, hospital administrator.
“The British (Methodist) Church constructed this hospital 30 years ago,” he said. “Quality has made this hospital famous globally.”
A Swiss urologist, Dr. Leuppi Ruedi, travels to the hospital every two months to perform surgery. The retired doctor has brought medical supplies to the hospital since 2006 and started its first urology department. A spotless hospital room — fully equipped with everything, including a mounted television in the corner — bears the doctor’s name on a plaque outside the room.
The health center, which opened in 1968, has 102 beds and employs 184 people, including 12 doctors and a pharmacist. It also has a general dentistry department. The clinical departments include general medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics.
The hospital was formerly the Protestant Hospital of Dabou. It is a component of the Protestant Foundation for Health, which is one of the departments of the United Methodist Côte d’Ivoire Conference.
The United Methodist Texas Conference and United Methodist Committee on Relief, Advance #3021942 gives support to the hospital.
Fishing, farming community
In addition to the expectant mothers, people come to the hospital for treatment of HIV/AIDs, malaria, heart and kidney problems. There is also a lot of traffic on the road outside the hospital, and the medical facility has become known for treating people who have been in car accidents, Degny said.
“We have everything other hospitals offer, and we are among the best in the region. We are aiming for excellence,” he added.
Dabou is a fishing and farming community. Rubber and palm trees, bananas, coffee and cocoa grow in the area. The marshy environment contributes to malaria, which is the number one ailment treated at the United Methodist facility.
Watching out for Ebola
The hospital does not have an isolation ward in case of Ebola, but Degny said the staff has been trained and the population has been sensitized. Buckets are outside every door for hand-washing and people don’t shake hands anymore.
“Everybody talked about it in the beginning, and we were all scared,” Degny said. “We are 400 kilometers from Liberia, and the population has a lot of migration. We are taking precautions.”