Hargeisa Group Hospital improves its services
Dr. Askar (2nd from right) and staff at the new dental unit.
In an ordinary Tuesday morning at the Hargeisa Group Hospital, Doctor Ahmed Omar Askar, Hospital Director, is busy. New equipment is being installed at the radiology department by Egyptian technicians, and patients stop him with burning questions as they see him.
“The number of patient visits at the hospital has increased because more services are available now than before. Around 170 people come daily, they trust us more than before”, he explains. According to Dr. Askar, an important factor that contributed to this change was the recently ended MIDA FINNSOM Health project by IOM, funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
During the three-year project, a number of Somali diaspora professionals temporarily returned to Somaliland and Puntland in order to strengthen local health institutions and services. The Hargeisa Group Hospital received in total 14 professionals, including medical doctors, a dentist, a midwife and administrative personnel. Mostly assignments lasted around one year.
Dental care is pretty new in Somaliland.
One of the new developments at the hospital is the foundation of a new dental unit. Dental care is pretty new in Somaliland and Somalia at large: customarily preventive dental checks are not done, and the most common dental treatment has been extraction of a painful tooth. The small unit has now brand-new equipment from Dubai, and the number of patients is gradually increasing.
Several foreign doctors including orthopedics and surgeons currently work at the hospital. “Surgery, in particular trauma surgery, used to be a problem here, but now we have surgery every day”, says Dr. Askar. The hospital also serves as a training hospital for medical students and young doctors.
Several foreign doctors work at the hospital.
“Better infrastructure, sanitation and emergency room are the biggest needs at the moment, also there is shortage for maternity services”, Dr. Askar says. An improvement regarding reproductive health services is that the hospital offers now emergency services such as cesarean sections free for mothers. According to Ahmed Askar, the services provided by the hospital are about 50 per cent cheaper than in the private sector, for example a visit to a doctor costs 5 USD.
Dr. Askar himself was a project participant at the MIDA FINNSOM Health project, and by now he continues his work as Hospital Director voluntarily. The third phase of the project is expected to start in May 2014, focusing in particular on the training of local staff which will be crucial for the sustainability of the project outcomes.
The author visited Hargeisa in March 2014.
Photos: Marja Tiilikainen