The St Francis Mission Hospital and Tikondane Community Centre in Katete
St Francis’ Mission Hospital is a busy general hospital that serves the local population of Katete District (over 200,000 people) and receives specialist referrals from all over Eastern Province (about 1.5 million people). It is especially focused on providing treatment to the most vulnerable in society and also provides clinical training for health professionals such as nurses and midwives. The hospital is recognised by the Government as a centre of excellence but remains financially dependent on charitable donations to supplement the funding it receives from both the Anglican and Catholic Churches. Although it predominantly employs Zambians, it still relies heavily on volunteers from overseas because of a national shortage of clinical staff. Dr Nick has twice spent time working there himself.
The hospital’s 350 beds are divided into adult medical (male and female), paediatric, maternity and surgical (male and female) wards. There is also a busy Labour Ward (delivering over 2000 babies each year), a basic Special Care Baby Unit and 2 operating theatres performing more than 3000 operations annually. Accidents and injuries are seen most commonly with Malaria and HIV/AIDS following close behind. Altogether 22,608 patients are admitted each year (62 per day). This reaches a peak during the malaria season (February to April) when an average of 30 children are admitted every day. The Outpatient Department is the main point of access to the hospital’s services and 93,038 people are seen and treated there annually (on average 255 per day).
Tikondane means ‘Let us love one another’ in the local Chichewa language. The Tikondane Community Centre is situated just 500 yards away from St Francis and was set up by a former hospital tutor as a grassroots project to help fight poverty by improving education, health, food security and income generation. It has a school on site and provides a variety of services to the community including HIV counselling, vocational and skills training, pre-school and adult literacy classes, permaculture and village outreach projects.
A charity set up by Guernseyman Peter Keeling called the ‘Friends of Katete’ has for many years lent support to both St Francis Mission Hospital and Tikondane Community Centre. With help from the Overseas Aid Commission, the Friends of Katete have been able to provide some much needed staff accommodation at the hospital that has made it easier to recruit and retain health professionals in what is regarded as a remote rural corner of the country. They have also been instrumental in the construction of classrooms, environmentally friendly latrines and a community hall (The Guernsey Great Hall) at Tikondane and have provided a reliable source of clean water in 23 surrounding villages by upgrading or replacing disused wells and boreholes.