Gertie's new adventure
The devoted CEO of Gertrude's Children's Hospital talks about how they put patients at the forefront of what they do.
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project manager Eddie Clinton
Gertrude's Children's Hospital was founded in 1947, with the donation of land by Colonel Ewart Grogan, pioneer extraordinaire, in memory of his beloved wife, Gertrude Edith. Now fronted by CEO Gordon Odundo, the hospital continues to expand its services.
As the years have passed, Gertrude's Children's Hospital has become more and more of a 'giving' hospital. it has won prestigious awards for its Corporate social responsibility (CSR). Gertrude's from the beginning was and will always be a simple hospital: it now has completed the full circle by becoming a place of hope for sick children who have no expectations elsewhere. Mr Odundo explains: "People all over the world find it difficult to find a model that can sustain children's health because children are dependent on adults to pay for their upkeep, they don't have an income, so the health system doesn't readily support children's hospitals as financial and viable projects."
Gertrude's use reliable local suppliers from Kenya of the all important hospital equipment, who deal with reputable brands, as Odundo justifies: "By using suppliers that have the distributorship and the sole rights to their equipment and medicines, we are able to find maintenance contracts and equipment to ensure our supplies will be on time. We avoid difficulties with passing things through the port, meaning our items are delivered to us on site accordingly."
The Benefits of Being a Charitable Trust
Gertrude's Children's Hospital is a charitable Trust, meaning that all profits are ploughed back into the hospital. It is overseen by a Board of Trustees who offer their services voluntarily in the day-to- day running of the hospital, since they are responsible for all policy decisions. Nor do they receive any rewards or emoluments for the charitable work they do. Odundo clarifies this: "First and foremost we are a Trust, meaning we are in the private sector charging fees for our services, but we don't have shareholders. By doing this, any surplus we generate gets reinvested into the facilities, allowing us to buy more equipment and expand our services. That's a model we have adopted and works successfully for us."
Paying patients provide the main monetary income for the hospital's routine management, Gertrude's is often reliant on donors for the purchase of the expensive paediatric equipment it requires to remain an up-to-date organisation. Any appeals for funds are almost always for the charitable work to which the hospital is committed. In October 2013, the hospital received a generous donation of Ksh 50 million from i&M Bank and Bhagwanji Raja Foundation, so were able to install state of the art equipment in both the intensive Care unit and radiology department units.
The hospital also hosts charitable events to give even more back to patients, as Mr Odundo articulated:
"Every year, we host a Golf tournament where we raise money for the children. We also have a separate Trust we have registered called 'Gertrude's Hospital Foundation', which works with other partners to help others access healthcare." This is a really active part of raising the funds to invest in hospital improvements.
The Chandaria Medical Centre
It is interesting to note that for the previous building extensions, Gertrude's shouldered the entire expense out of its own investments. The recent 4 storey building expansion at Chandaria Medical Centre was opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta in November 2013, "the essence of the building was to have a state of the art paediatric unit, surgical ward, additional specialist units and a radiology centre." The Chandaria Foundation contributed Ksh 100 million towards its construction and equipping in what is the most substantial and generous donation ever made to the hospital.
For an organisation that began sixty years ago with a small staff and only sixteen beds, this was a significant occasion, as Gertrude's is now able to offer a genuine all encompassing paediatric centre that can provide almost every available treatment that a child might need. It was indeed a fitting time to remember with thanks all those who have used the facility in the past, and those who continue to do so into the future, to create this unique centre of paediatric excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Now with 100 beds, 10 outpatient centres within Nairobi and urban-Nairobi, the hospital admits roughly 6000patients and 300,000 outpatients a year. Mr Odundo explains "Children's hospitals are unique, the main fact that we concentrate on children alone is a strategic advantage. We are different because we have 21 specialist clinics, with patients we see on referral."
Professional Training College
Gertrude's offer a variety of attractive and challenging career opportunities at the Nairobi-based paediatric hospital and is now extending this into Mombasa. Mr Odundo proclaimed: "We plan to open a clinic in Mombasa next month as an outpatient clinic. Paediatrics is widely practiced so we realised that we needed to support training of skilled health workers who can actually treat and attend to children; not only for Kenya but for the region. So some of our courses are international such as the paediatrics programme, we offer short courses as well." The latest course is due to start soon focussing on critical care nursing for children. The bulk of these courses are targeted at health care workers who are already trained, Mr Odundo cited: You could be a registered nurse or doctor, but you will need specific training to treat children."
The training extends to as many people as the college can reach, meaning that there is a variety of applicants: "We train for the national government, for people in Rwanda as far as Zambia and locally as well. The whole idea being that as a Trust, we make a contribution to healthcare in the region."
"Our biggest challenge"
What's interesting is that the hospital's biggest challenge is not medically orientated, but politically charged: "Elections in this country tend to cause a slow-down in business. At that particular time in 2013, we were completing our new building. So here you have a decrease in business as well as a new investment coming on stream.
I think we were able to do quite well in maintaining our business and in terms of the new services we have."
"We believe in creating safe environments for families and children"
Mr Odundo sees the coming year as a new adventure, with the intention of establishing further children's services in Nairobi and Mombasa 500km away from Gertrude's main hospital. "We are very sure we will get it right and that this will open up to similar ventures within the country. We are also looking at achieving a Joint Commission international Accreditation which we are planning for September this year."
Gertrude's Children's Hospital believes in creating environments for families and children, where great healthcare can be provided: "That's how we work in our design and everything else that we do".