For more than 50 years, Mercy Mission Hospital at the heart of Eldama Ravine Town in Koibatek Sub-county, has remained the pride of good healthcare in Baringo County.
Unknown to most of the over 666,000 residents, this was the first hospital in the region.
The hospital situated along Market Road served patients from as far away as Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu and East Pokot counties shortly after Kenya gained independence.
The hospital has soared above the storms of banditry, cattle rustling, diseases and hunger for more than half a century and has relieved patients’ pain by offering services in a county that has continued to suffer from a weak healthcare system.
The hospital that was started in 1963 is celebrating 57 years of service to community, which is guided and espoused by the mercy values of Jesus Christ: compassion, integrity, respect and excellence.
But what many residents of Baringo don’t know is that the hospital is the brain child of the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns from Ireland.
The Sisters of Mercy initially set up a convent, a nursing school and later a 30-bed general hospital to cater mainly for the poor.
Their primary mission was providing general healthcare. The bed capacity is now 180.
A maternity was opened with antenatal, postnatal and immunisation clinics attached to upgrade the quality of maternal healthcare for the residents. The hospital has expanded in many ways.
It has a modern private wing, theatre, dental, orthopaedic, ear, nose and throat (ENT) and gynaecology units as well as a mortuary.
The maternity wing that started with 10 beds and was the only one in the region, can accommodate 30 mothers.
The hospital comes in handy when public health workers go on strike. It receives patients with gunshot wounds from as far away as East Pokot.
Then Vice-President and Home Affairs minister Daniel arap Moi opened the hospital on March 2, 1969.
The name Mercy originates from Mater Misericordiae, meaning Mother of Mercy, a title of the Virgin Mary.
The nuns settled in Eldama Ravine because the land was already occupied by early missionaries and the sisters thought of extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ by starting a hospital.
The hospital was started alongside Mercy Girls Secondary School, which was later renamed Eldama Ravine Girls.
The hospital and school were handed over to the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru in 1993.
It’s sandwiched between Eldama Ravine’s oldest slums, Shauri and Bondeni, which are hard hit by alcoholism that is linked to crime.
Victims of crime, such as stabbings or intoxication, are rushed to the hospital for emergency services.
Walking in the sparkling clean compound and wards named after saints, it’s easy to notice the major renovations that have taken place.
The hospital has also installed CCTV to monitor patient movement and for security.
The facility has digitised its services, which has enhanced service delivery and revenue collection that has steadily increased.
However, some of the areas such as the outpatient wing, kitchen, water tank, some staff quarters and the stores have stood the test of time and have been repainted.
The hospital has become a preferred destination for patients and residents particularly because of its affordable services.
It’s common to see patients from as far away as Nakuru Town, some 60km away. This has prompted opening of a Nakuru branch.
Hospital accountant Rosina Jepkoech says the facility has received help from the national and county governments. It has enough vaccines and drugs from Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) and a matron from the devolved unit.
The hospital that started with one doctor now has 22 nurses, five clinical officers, three laboratory technologists, three doctors, a general surgeon, a visiting ENT and orthopaedic specialist besides a gynaecologist and ophthalmologist.
Ms Jepkoech laments that land grabbers have encroached on the property. Out of the original 10 acres, she says, only 6.75 acres are left. This has forced the management to suspend plans to expand and modernise the facility.
The hospital is also facing financial challenges owing to the high poverty levels among majority of its patients.
The hospital charges a minimum of Sh100 to its outpatients as consultation fees.
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