Liberia: Rotary Club Breaks Ground for US$200k Oxygen Facility at ELWA Hospital

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Monrovia – The Rotary Club of Monrovia (RCM) over the weekend broke ground for the construction of a facility to house a medical grade oxygen production plant for ELWA Hospital. The selection of that health facility as the recipient of the project comes as no surprise as it is one of the traditional and premier healthcare providers in the country.

The Oxygen plant project, which comes at a cost of approximately $200K, comes after nearly 4 years of fund-raising and project development by the Rotary Club of Monrovia, Rotary Club of Marlow and other Rotary Districts in the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the ceremony, RCM president, Monique Cooper-Liverpool said her organization is pleased to collaborate with ELWA Hospital on this life saving project. She described the project as the beginning of a new phase of work that has been ongoing for four years now.

The Oxygen plant is one of two “Ebola Legacy projects” that is being implemented by the Rotary Club of Monrovia.

Mrs. Cooper-Liverpool disclosed that the dream that led to conceiving the project started during the outbreak of the horrendous Ebola virus disease. “Our club stood in the face of the virus and we decided to use our network of clubs to harness that support and goodwill that we needed that helped to bring relief to our people. We were able to put together over US$100K of support at the time, coordinating efforts with the Ministry of Health and other partners across the country.”

Once completed, the oxygen plant will be capable of filling cylinders, and supplying oxygen for the Operating Theaters, Emergency Room and treatment areas of the new ELWA hospital. The excess bottled oxygen not used by the hospital would be made available to other medical facilities in the Monrovia area, at minimal cost.

“Today is the culmination of years of hard work from our members, Rotary partners in the UK and the beneficiary ELWA.  We are truly excited to get the project started and are looking to all the lives we can save by simply having high quality medical oxygen available for patients when they need it.  This is such a joy and we are glad to be making a difference.”

It is expected that over the next six months the building will be completed, equipment purchased, installed and staff trained for effective operations of the plant, she noted.

RCM was one of the early responders during the EVD outbreak.  Rotarians were on the front line providing critical support to the Ministry of Health with initial donations of gloves, supplies of mattresses, liquids and food to quarantined patients and households, protective equipment to health workers, buckets and chlorine and awareness materials and sanitation trainings to communities.

ELWA was also an Ebola first responder and champion. When Ebola first arrived in Liberia in 2014, ELWA converted their chapel into an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). When the second wave of Ebola hit in June 2014, it was the only treatment unit in Monrovia. As the outbreak worsened, ELWA expanded its Ebola Treatment Unit into what would be called ELWA-2. In this unit nearly 750 patients were treated.

In the aftermath of the crisis, RCM turned its attention to legacy projects, which would help rebuild the health sector from the devastating effects of the outbreak.  During the Ebola epidemic, avoidable deaths occurred as medical oxygen was, and still is, scarce at many major hospitals and health facilities.

“We have stepped in to fill the gap,” she said, adding that the provision of this equipment to a medical facility with the ability to sustain it into the future became a key objective for the Club and ELWA was the perfect partner.

However, following the support during the outbreak, ELWA began a program to provide comprehensive care to EVD survivors in January 2015. It has grown to be the largest Ebola survivor clinic in Liberia, now taking care of over 200 survivors and the Club has also previously donated to the work of the survivor clinic.

As part of its post-Ebola efforts, RCM designed two legacies projects—the first being an academic scholarship program for high-performing health practitioners. Under this, 20 students are currently enrolling at the Mother Pattern College of Health Sciences.

“These students are striving to be nurses, Physician Assistants and Medical Laboratory Technicians. We are about to conclude our third round of intakes and this is a program we have dedicated over US$90K to.”

The hospital Chief Executive Officer, Dr. John Fankhauser, expressed gratitude that the project is now coming to fruition. He said medical grade oxygen has been a big issue at the facility since his arrival here four years ago. “When I first arrived at the old hospital, it was indeed difficult to get oxygen for patients who needed it. It was often a big scramble to get this lifesaving product,” he said.

He lauded the Rotary club for the vision and noted that it will be of great help to the Liberian populace. Since the hospital was moved to its current site, Mr. Fankhauser said services have tremendously improved, but more needs to be done to get to where the hospital dreams of being.

He said the best way to sustain efforts in providing quality and affordable services to the public is through collaborations as the RCM is doing.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional persons united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.  The Rotary Club of Monrovia was originally chartered by Rotary International on January 24, 1964 as the first Rotary Club in Liberia.

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