Tambacounda Hospital is the only hospital in a very large region of eastern Senegal. It serves the 80,000 residents of the city of Tambacounda, and more than a million people from the surrounding area and from Mali, whose border is about an hour and a half away. It has 150 beds and treats approximately 9,000 patients annually, most often for malaria and respiratory infections. Because Tambacounda is a crossroads of major international routes, in a country where the roads are in bad condition and often dangerous, its emergency room treats, each month, some 300 victims of car accidents. The hospital also takes in patients who need levels of medical care that cannot be provided at smaller clinics in the region, including those supported by Le Korsa in the villages of Sinthian and Fass.
On his first trip to Senegal in 2004, Nick Weber, taken to the hospital by Dr. Gilles Degois, who was delivering a supply of desperately needed blood from Paris, was surprised by the woeful conditions at this hospital, where the hard-working and devoted doctors and nurses pointed out a paucity of equipment. The only operating table was broken, and a room set aside for surgery had no working surface at all, the table destined for the hospital having been stolen in transport. An incubator essential to the survival of prematurely born babies consisted of three naked light bulbs hanging over a steel shelf from a discarded refrigerator. Masses of patients, ranging from newborns to the elderly, were waiting outside in the blistering heat, unsheltered for hours, in the hope of care. Some of them, unable to pay for medicine, were denied treatment of any sort, since, while the staff’s modest salaries are funded by the state, antibiotics and other drugs are not, and the doctors and nurses are unable to perform surgery or offer other treatments to patients who are unable to afford these basic drugs.
In 2010, Le Korsa forged a partnership with Tambacounda hospital and its dedicated staff to cover the cost of such medicines for the patients who could not afford them, thanks to a meeting organized by board member Dr. Patrick Dewavrin and Dr. Ammadou Milogo, the hospital surgeon and its former director. This program is overseen by Ms. Khady Guèye, one of those individuals who is a true partner to Le Korsa in Senegal. This remarkable, compassionate, and shrewd human being is, single-handedly, the hospital’s Department of Social Services. She determines whether the needs of a patient are so dire that he or she should receive a subsidy provided by Le Korsa, or whether patients who plead poverty can actually afford the small amounts needed to pay for painkillers or malaria drugs. Twice a year, Le Korsa gives the hospital a grant of $5000, and Ms. Guèye provides us with every receipt for the medicine she decides to purchase on behalf of patients. We have helped to modernize her office by providing a computer, printer, and digital camera to make her work more manageable.
We also regularly send containers of medical equipment from Project C.U.R.E. to the hospital, which helps provide crucial beds, operating tables, and basic supplies. Since 2015, we have sent three such containers, with goods worth over 1.5 million dollars.
We have now embarked on our greatest project yet with the hospital: a redesign of its maternity and pediatric wards. During a visit to the hospital in 2017, it became clear to Le Korsa that the maternity and the pediatric units urgently needed improvement. We saw families going into the hospital with their sick child, having no choice but to wait on the corridor floor. People arriving with a feverish two-month old baby, waiting in the heat for hours, without a proper chair. Then, if the child was admitted to the hospital, he or she was squeezed into a ward where there is little space between the beds, mostly sharing their bed with another child.
To improve this situation, Le Korsa, in collaboration with the hospital director, Dr. Therese-Aida Ndiaye, launched an architectural competition to design an expansion of the maternity and pediatric units.
We invited ten different firms to submit proposals, and each responded with truly breathtaking designs. One proposal, by Switzerland-based Manuel Herz Architects, stood out for its combination of original design, identity, and openness to the local environment, and was selected as the winner by a panel of Le Korsa and hospital staff. It is now in the early stages of design and planning.