Continued Devotion to East African Healthcare
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
As the largest private hospital in East and Central Africa dedicated exclusively to the care of children, Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital is continuing on its quest to provide award-winning, world-class healthcare to Kenya’s children by increasing its geographical coverage in order to have a greater physical presence outside Nairobi; which started with the opening of its first outpatient clinic in Mombasa last year.
Rapid urbanisation and decentralisation are dictating the Hospital’s expansion plans in line with the changing needs of Kenya’s growing economy. Having successfully maintained its position as one of the biggest contributors to child wellbeing in the country for more than 65 years, Gertrude’s was declared debt-free at the end of the last financial year which has allowed the organisation to free-up more cash to buy new equipment and continue modernising its facilities to provide even better patient care.
“We have been able to pay off all of our financial commitments, so we can now allocate more spending to the expansion of our clinics, improve the medical training available and provide essential medical equipment in the hospital,” comments Gordon Otieno Odundo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gertrude’s.
Tending to more than 300,000 patients each year, Odundo is acutely aware of the number of people in more rural areas of Kenya who are unable to get to the Hospital in their time of need. He explains: “In a country where the population stands at 44 million, we can only reach so many with one facility. Therefore, we are now developing the number of outpatient clinics we have, with a long-term plan to have several in key geographic locations across the country and ultimately, aim to reach more people.”
The most recent completion of an outpatient clinic was in December 2014 in Nairobi and was designed to decrease the number of unnecessary admittance cases to the Hospital itself. Gertrude’s has seen increased use of the clinics, which shows they are working and as such, it intends to open another clinic in early 2016.
“Our clinics are popular because they offer a more convenient location for basic health provisions such as immunisation services; meaning that the patient does not have to travel to the Hospital to receive access to this service; they can receive it from a more suitable location and in a more timely manner,” Odundo adds.
As a result of the increased healthcare capacity generated by the clinics, the Hospital itself has seen no major rise in bed occupancy numbers in the past year, holding steady at around 71 percent.
Further bolstering both its commitment to Kenya and dedication to continuous improvement, Gertrude’s has focused on gaining recognition on an international stage for its good work in the country. One such aspiration was obtaining Joint Commission International (JCI) status - considered the “gold standard in global healthcare” – and the other becoming members of the Children’s Hospital Association, a US-based organisation with members drawn from children’s hospitals around the world.
The CEO highlights: “2015 was a year filled with proud moments for the Hospital in this regard. The Children’s Hospital Association membership helped set the benchmark from which we can compare quality indicators with others around the world, and share best practices in patient safety procedures.”
With the Kenyan economy currently fluctuating due to many external factors concerning the global economy, Odundo says there is still great potential for improving access to healthcare. “Other factors such as population growth, the emerging middle-class and urbanisation are dictating how we grow and we are taking advantage of all of this to reach as many people as possible.
“And in these uncertain times, the Hospital has done well to secure funding for itself. Now, we are trying to secure what I call ‘unrestricted funding’ in order to improve our community outreach, which is such an important part of ensuring that the population has access to healthcare. With this kind of funding, we will be able to do more to improve our community outreach,” he details.
In addition to this, each year, approximately 10,000 Kenyan children benefit from the funding that Gertrude’s receives from its fundraising activities as an established Trust. “To put this into context, funding from the Gertrude’s Hospital Foundation helped support the construction of the Chandaria Wing in November 2013, and funded the availability of cardiac surgery at the Hospital,” Odundo further adds.
Having established its healthcare reputation on an international scale, Gertrude’s is now keen to attract likeminded international partners that can help achieve its mission of high standard paediatric care backed by a quality research team and healthcare professionals. “We would like to open our doors to the prospect of international partnerships and although we have none in place currently, we are striving to change this in the near future by seeking out those who have the long-term horizon in mind via a two-way beneficial partnership with a focus on the betterment of children’s health,” Odundo emphasises.
He concludes: “Kenya’s healthcare environment is rapidly improving, with more privately-owned hospitals now operational. Despite the shortage of certain specialist skills, day by day we are seeing more repatriates return to work here and we have capitalised on this by hiring more staff who can help us to advance the country’s healthcare, further demonstrating the Hospital’s continuous devotion to better healthcare for children.”