Unparalleled Specialists in Children’s healthcare
A year on and Gerties continues its adventure, expanding its ever-growing reach across Kenya with the advent of outpatient clinics
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Serge Utting
Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital is the largest hospital in East and Central Africa that is dedicated exclusively to the care of children. For over 65 years, the hospital has provided high standards of paediatric care for children right from birth to 21 years of age. CEO Gordon Odundo’s care and devotion to providing the best service possible to the country’s children is mirrored in the unparalleled level of care the hospital provides.
I previously spoke to Gordon in issue 11 of Africa Outlook and in just twelve short months, the organisation has derived great success from the opening of the Chandaria Medical Centre (opened in November 2013), and its new ventures into developing outpatient clinics across the country. “As a result of the rise in bed occupancy numbers that we have seen this year – from 60 to 71 percent – we have diversified our offering by increasing our number of outpatient clinics, which means that ultimately, we can reach more people,” says the CEO.
“The growth in bed occupancy numbers can be attributed to the opening of a surgical ward in the Chandaria wing. We set this up to iron out the processes involved in getting our patients prepped for theatre, and our doctors and nurses are very happy with the efficiencies this brings to the hospital.”
The hospital, which is affectionately nicknamed ‘Gerties’, has also continued its training programmes, creating newly qualified doctors and nurses with the relevant specialisms.
Last time we spoke to Gordon, he talked about the imminent opening of the hospital’s first outpatient clinic in Mombasa. “We opened the centre in May and have seen a good response. Advantageously for patients, this means that they do not have to travel to the hospital directly for all their medical care and therefore, they can be reached faster.
“It is important to consider that it costs approximately seven times more per night to be treated in a hospital versus being seen at an outpatient clinic. We are directly seeing the impact from this and have been able to enhance our level of care for children in harder to reach regions,” he says.
Moreover, treating patients via these methods costs Gerties significantly less, this crucially presents a more cost-effective solution that saves patients and the healthcare industry time, which can even mean catching a disease early while it is more treatable; or even be the difference between life and death.
“Through the clinics, we hope to greatly reduce the number of children falling sick from infectious diseases. Our costs can therefore be spent elsewhere, and we have more available spending to provide the much needed specialist care to those who are critically ill.”
Hospital Admittance Numbers
As it stands currently, Gerties tend to approximately 360,000 outpatients a year and admit approximately 9,000 of these to the hospital. “From these numbers, you can see just how much of an impact the clinics are having to our hospital admittance numbers,” adds Gordon.
Mid-December 2014 saw Gerties open a further outpatient clinic in Nairobi, which they hope replicates the success seen in Mombasa.
“Opening clinics in such quick succession suggests that this was the right thing to do,” he comments.
Furthermore, in the next 18 months, Gertrude’s will be doing a complete conversion of an existing older clinic by constructing a new building altogether. This outpatient clinic is located in Doonholm, a settlement in the Nairobi area. “We are currently in the approval stages and hope to start construction in March 2015.”
Gordon highlighted that the hospital is regularly approached by potential medical businesses who share the same vision to further increase patient reach in the country via outpatient clinics: “Now that we have completed our Mombasa site, our next focus areas will be in city centres such as Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru. In the long term, we hope to have a presence in these cities and municipalities in the next six years.”
Gerties’ strong desire to work with partners is fuelled by Gordon’s view to pool its resources and share knowledge with other medical institutions. “Fundamentally, we want to improve the outlook for children in Kenya. In particular, the immunisation rates in the country are simply not high enough. We operate in a country where there are a lot of infectious diseases that affect children. As a result, we want to share our data with other people and merge our resources in the country. Greater resources means better healthcare.”
The hospital is confident that having access to dedicated resources in children’s healthcare from a shared partner network will go a long way towards improving medical standards across the board. “This is particularly prevalent when it comes to private hospitals as more than 50 percent of healthcare in Kenya is done by the private sector. Subsequently, we hope a new system will emerge through Public Private Partnerships that will address access to healthcare for all,” emphasises Odundo.
As one of the only dedicated children’s hospitals in Kenya, Gerties is faced with many challenging scenarios. Attracting and retaining health workers is one aspect that is a country-wide challenge. For Gertrude’s, the major problem is having enough specialist workers to care for children who are critically ill, and also raising the money for the necessary treatments.
Gerties has always made a huge contribution to healthcare in the region due to being a Trust. With an established training college, the hospital is always churning out new fully qualified talents to tend today’s generation of patients. Throughout its history, Gertrude’s has partnered with other institutions in order to offer the best medical education possible in Kenya.
“We have a very successful programme training paediatric endocrinologists. When we started six years ago with this training, we only had one fully trained in Africa, now we have over forty who have come from various countries and backgrounds.”
Additionally, Gordon is very keen to get more involved in medical research and has the ambition to be a leading health research centre for child healthcare in the East Africa region: “It will take time to build up this profile, but I am optimistic that we can achieve this status.”
Active CSR Work
As a charitable Trust, Gerties continues to participate in corporate social responsibility projects in the community. Not only does the hospital itself hold this status, but it also has established the Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation; and a considerable amount of CSR is completed under this banner as the organisation remains very active.
Most recently, the charity and its partners have been involved in advocating for children in road safety, which Gordon says has been a triumph for the region: “A considerable number of children take the bus to school. Not only do we hope that the initiative will reduce accident numbers, but a new law might be passed in this area as well.”
Besides this, the Foundation is also running a cardiac programme, which provides the necessary support to children who aren’t able to afford heart surgery.
“Another key part of our CSR is our outreach programmes. We have medical camps in high density areas of the country. In most cases, this is a completely free service that reaches as many people as possible,” he adds.
What does the future hold for Gerties?
Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital will continue to spend time consolidating its strengths as a leader in the region for children’s specialist care, with further outpatient clinics on the cards in key areas of the country. “Extending our community reach is our key focus. We can - and will - do so much more in the country. Our faultless devotion to children runs throughout our mission, goals and staff and this will never change,” concludes Gordon.