Thursday, June 22, 2006

Karen Hospital Revisited

To my surprise, one of the more popular posts on this blog has been my collection of photographs of Karen Hospital near Nairobi, which I took a couple of weeks before the hospital opened.

In the Congressional Record this week, Representative Edolphus Towns (D-New York) pays tribute to the Karen Hospital, which he asserts should be receiving more attention from the MSM. (It certainly seems that the first new hospital built in Kenya in some 50 years would be newsworthy, especially since the project was completed largely using private funds and donations of equipment.)

Here is Congressman Towns' speech, as it appears in the Congressional Record of June 20:

KAREN HOSPITAL -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 20, 2006)

TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2006

Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, there was an historic moment that was, sadly, underreported by the news media in this county and in much of the rest of the world. It is only recently that I came to learn of it and I wish to bring it to the attention of this House.

On March 31, outside of Nairobi, Kenya, there was a dedication ceremony for the Karen Hospital, which is the first full-service hospital opened in Kenya since the colonial era, before that country became an independent state within the community of nations.

Karen Hospital is located in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, which many will recognize as the setting for the movie, ``Out of Africa,'' which told the story of author Isak Dinesen, who used the pen name Karen Blixen, and who lived and worked in Kenya and wrote about that country and her love for it.

The opening of Karen Hospital has important implications for health care in Kenya and throughout East Africa. This state-of-the-art facility will provide opportunities for teaching health-care professionals--not just doctors, but nurses, administrators, orderlies, and others--who will bring their knowledge and skills into cities and villages across the region.

When Karen Hospital was opened formally, its chief executive officer, Dr. Betty Gikonyo--who received her medical education in the United States--made a speech, in the presence of President Mwai Kibaki, that reflected the pride and hard work of bringing this hospital from a mere conception to a full-fledged operating unit serving the people of Kenya.

Mr. Speaker, if there is no objection, I would like to place excerpts of the address by Dr. Gikonyo in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD. Such a historic occasion deserves to be paid much more attention than it has so far received.


We have gathered here to celebrate a special day, which will form a milestone in the history of The Karen Hospital. 21 years ago a dream was born, nurtured over the years and now realized. Over the last 10 years we have gone through a process of feasibility studies, consultation, intense planning resulting in a business plan for the Karen Hospital. The search for a financier was not an easy one and it took us over 5 years to convince financial institutions that a medical business is a viable option. We kept on knocking at their doors. Nevertheless some doors were open. We received some offers from both regional and local banks. In consultation with our financial advisers opted for a loan in Kenya Shillings that could finance the two major components of the project which are including building and acquisition of medical equipment. Your Excellency Sir, please, allow us to thank the Kenya Commercial Bank, for believing in our vision and trusting the business plan of a local investor. Kenya Commercial Bank took the risk and proudly partnered with us in undertaking a project of this magnitude. To the KCB Board of Directors and Management Asanteni Sana. You have worked closely with in the formation of this project to see it conclude successfully.

Medical equipment are an expensive undertaking and we wish to recognize Philips Medical Systems Netherlands and Frescenius Renal Supplies of Germany who entered into equipment financing credit plans to enable us to equip the hospital with ultra modem state of the art equipment in all departments as Your Excellency has had an opportunity to see.

This has been achieved through hardwork, commitment and consistency of purpose by a team of financial consultants, medical consultants, hospital engineers and building and civil engineers and a dedicated contractor and sub-contractors. By following the clearly laid out rules we were able to import clear all equipment in good time for installation.

The hospital building comprises of 4 floors each with four wings thoughtfully planned to ensure all services are accessed with minimum effort and maximum convenience to our patients and staff.......

The Karen Hospital is a world class ultra modern health facility bringing quality healthcare not only to Kenyans but also to Eastern and Central Africa but beyond.

The 102 bed hospital serves patients with general ailments alongside specialized medical and surgical interventions. It has the newest ultra modern state-of-the art equipment, cardiac diagnosis, interventions and surgery, intensive care, kidney dialysis, Laparoscopic surgery, video Endoscopy and physiotherapy.......

[A] Hospital is however not made of building and equipment. Our most important resource is the highly trained and experienced personnel in all departments. Through competitive selection of the best qualified personnel Karen Hospital has been manned by the best Kenya can offer in all our departments both medical and non-medical. This includes our permanent staff as well highly experienced team of medical consultants who form the large panel of over 100 admitting doctors of different areas of specialization.

Your Excellency Sir, I am happy to inform you that we have been able to attend to 634 patients in our Accident and Emergency department. Some with major injuries including bullet assault cases and road traffic accidents. Additionally we have performed a number of surgeries, endoscopies and cardiac catheterizations and as you have seen a full wing of inpatients with varying ailments ranging from major surgeries to medical conditions are recuperating in our Sagana Ward. This confirms that Kenyans have already come to know, trust and use this facility in the last one month. We look forward to a full house in 6 months time. The performance so far has been very impressive and we are encouraged and grateful for the support Kenyans have given this facility at its inception.......

The City of Nairobi has been the hub of specialized medical services for the entire country as well as for the Eastern and Central Africa region. Indeed this has been realized in the month of March, as we have admitted referred patients from Tanzania (Daresalam), DRC Congo, Sudan (Khartoum), and Burundi (Bujumbura).

Referrals from the region not only is testimony to the high standard medical services available in Kenya but also affords us an opportunity to boost our inflow of foreign currency to enhance our economic growth. This is an area that can be expanded further by the establishment of highly specialized medical services in the private sector that would see greater number of referral from this population of over 100 million that forms the Eastern Africa community. We at The Karen Hospital has addressed this very specifically by incorporating in our hospital a cardiology program that spans from diagnosis to interventional non-evasive procedures and to heart surgery. We believe that more patients will be diverted from the exodus that sees patient travel to India, South Africa and Europe to seek some of these specialized services. As a new centre of medical excellence, we plan to market our services effervescently to the region and make Kenya a preferred destination for medical services.......

This will provide a forum for many to channel their energies, experiences, resources and to harness these positively towards our mission statement. I believe that many of us are cognizant of the benefits that come along with the integrated teaching and referral facility globally.

We at The Karen Hospital wish to compliment and be active participants in the implementation of the government policy of providing promotive, preventive and curative services. We believe there is room for the private sector to provide specialist tertiary medical institutions to compliment those existing in the government and indeed these are not in competition but rather in partnership. More facilities like Karen Hospital are needed in our countries especially in cities Like Mombasa Kisumu and Eldoret and also in the East African cities.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Management, Staff of The Karen Hospital, may once again, thank you for joining us during this auspicious occasion.

In closing, allow me to quote Our Mentor and Teacher Dr. Sam Mwinzi, a renowned neurologist who is with us today and had this immortalized in our visitors book when he visited Karen Hospital, "May the portals of this magnificent edifice forever remain open and overflowing with those that seek better health as well as those that have the gift of giving it."


Kris Amundson said...

Now I'm even more glad that we met last weekend at Blogapalooza (as Bob called it). Did not know you were this involved with working in Africa. I've worked for years in Central America, and will be going there again this summer. Important work you're doing.

mija said...

I would like to thank the entire Karen Hospital community, especially the Gikonyos', for the wonderful job of making efforts to provide better medicare to Kenyans and the rest of the world.

It is such a joy to read and learn that so much has been achieved in a short time. I have worked with both Drs. Dan and Betty Gikonyo (at the Nairobi Hospital Cath-Lab) and do believe that this is a milestone that they deserve. I did not have a chance to visit the hospital during my last visit to Kenya, but saw the structure from afar on my way to Ngong, where I was residing. It is such a striling briliance of architecture and serene environment that I would not hesitate to recommend anyone to. May the entire Karen Hospital community and their legacy continue to live, albeit as an example of dedication and commitment to professionalism.


Anonymous said...

I was in Kenya/Nairobi just before the holidays (Dec. 2006) on a medical mission trip all the way from Viginia, USA. While there I became very sick and was taken to the Karen Hospital. Upon arrival I was seen by Dr. Gikonyo who quickly diagnosed me with Typhoid Fever. I recieved the upmost care and attention anyone could ever hope for. Dr. Gikonyo was in constant contact with the nurses who were caring for me. I would also wake up all during the night and see him standing at my door checking in on me. I have never been in a hospital where I recieved such excellent care.

While staying at the hospital I had a chance to attend the Dedication of the Karen Hospital Chapel. I was asked to stand up and be reconized for being there on a medical mission trip. I was welcomed by all in attendance as a "sister in faith".

I will always remember everyone who cared for me while I was sick and also this grand beautiful hospital. It felt more like a vacation room than a hospital room. The people of Kenya are so fortunate to have such a state of the art hospital to care for their needs.

Thank you Dr. Gikonyo and all your staff for making me feel like I was at home in your hospital. I also thank you for the excellent care I recieved while I was there. I am back home and completely healed from the typhoid.

Your Sister In Faith
Rebecca From Virginia