By BETSY TAYLOR
A Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital medical surgical nurse and her husband have invested about $150,000 of their own money to build a new health care center outside of Monrovia as a way to respond to the tremendous need for health care in their homeland, the west African nation of Liberia.
Mark Kieh and Mary Moore Kieh on the site of the Robert Moore Memorial Healthcare Center outside of Monrovia, Liberia, where contractors were leveling the land in May.
The World Health Organization says Liberia and other West African nations have health care systems that are underfinanced and poorly equipped. An estimated 4,800 Liberians died from Ebola in the outbreak that officially ended in September, according to the World Health Organization. The organization said the nation had 130 doctors for a population of 4.5 million people before the deaths from the latest epidemic, which included some of those physicians and other clinicians.
"This clinic is about hope," Mary Moore Kieh said of the health care center she and husband, Mark Kieh, are financing and which they planned far in advance of the most recent Ebola outbreak. It's located about a half-hour drive from Liberia's capital Monrovia, in an area known as the Pipeline Road community. "I've been blessed so much. I have to stretch my hands out; I have to give back," she said.
The couple moved to the U.S. in 1998 after receiving political asylum around the time of a tribal civil war in their native Liberia and they are now U.S. citizens. Moore Kieh was a certified midwife in Monrovia. In the U.S., she went to school to become a nurse. Mark Kieh, a surgeon in Liberia, studied in America and became a psychotherapist, she said.
Workers take a break from constructing the Robert Moore Memorial Healthcare Center earlier this year.
They worried about family members back home, including Moore Kieh's brother, Robert. He became sick in 2000 in Liberia with a condition that remained undiagnosed, his sister said. In time, he became a bilateral amputee and was wheelchair-bound for nine years before he died in 2011, Moore Kieh said. She became determined to help others by starting a health care center in Liberia. The center will be named the Robert Moore Memorial Healthcare Center in her brother's honor.
Moore Kieh said she picks up extra nursing shifts at a second job, adding funds as she's able, to pay for the health care center. She scours online sites like craigslist and eBay, looking for both new and used medical equipment offered at discounted rates and supplies she can buy and ship to Liberia to outfit the health care center, which the couple plans to open next May.
The 11,000-square-foot health care center was designed as an outpatient center with an inpatient maternity clinic. It includes an emergency room, an operating room and recovery area, as well as a laboratory and pharmacy. The health care center will bill patients for services, but the Kiehs also plan to apply for grants to help support the center's charity care work.
Robert Moore and his sister Mary Moore Kieh in a 2006 picture. Robert Moore died in 2011, after struggling with an undiagnosed illness for several years.
The couple will be on site and on staff at the health care center.
Moore Kieh plans to train and teach staff for the opening of the center about aspects of care she learned in nursing school and at Mercy Fitzgerald in Darby, Pa., such as ways to show respect for patients throughout their care, ways to help patients manage pain and care coordination. She will travel back and forth during the first year to get needed resources and supplies. The couple plans to hire an administrator to work with Mark Kieh at the center.
At first, just the maternity ward and outpatient services will be available. Moore Kieh said patients requiring more than 24 hours of care will be transferred or asked to go to another center. She hopes the care coordination will in time include better communication and transportation options, so if a patient can't remain at the care center, he or she could be safely taken by ambulance to the nearest available hospital.
The center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Moore Kieh said they anticipate having about a dozen medical professionals at the center, including a doctor on site during the day and on-call at night. Three shifts at the center will each include a physician assistant, a nurse and a midwife as well as other employees to complete other functions, like housekeeping and security.
Mary Moore Kieh
"God knows there will be a lot of challenges," said Moore Kieh.
Take electricity, for example. Moore Kieh said initially the center will rely on gas-powered generators, secured in a generator house. There is no public electricity supplier in the community, but Moore Kieh said there are plans for electric lines when the power grid reaches the area.
Support from co-workers
Moore Kieh's U.S. medical colleagues are helping, too. Maureen McCullian is a nursing supervisor at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, part of Trinity Health's Mercy Health System of Southeastern Pennsylvania. She says Moore Kieh quietly went about the effort to build the health center in Liberia, but as more people have become aware of the project, they've offered to visit Liberia to provide some medical care and education.
Susan Croushore, president and chief executive of Mercy Health System, said Moore Kieh's commitment is inspirational. "Mary's good work expands all of our thinking about caring for the world as well as for our own neighborhoods," Croushore said. "We're all God's children."
She said Mercy Health System has highlighted the Kiehs' work in its internal communications as well as the GoFundMe crowdsourcing page for "healthcare center construction" set up by Moore Kieh for the project. Individual employees have supported the effort. Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital also has contributed medical gowns, saline, patient charts and other items valued at roughly $6,500 to the Robert Moore Memorial Healthcare Center.
Croushore said when the center opens, her goal is to link Moore Kieh with Trinity Health's Global Health Ministry program to see how the system can assist with the health care center moving forward. The program coordinates volunteers who provide medical and surgical care and health education in developing countries. It also connects international ministry partners to resources and services they require.
Moore Kieh intends to return to Monrovia in December to spread the word more broadly about the health care center. "You have a dream; you don't have the resources, but you know with time, God is going to do something about it," she said.
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