Did you know that the Mater Misericordiae (Mater Hospital) in Nairobi was originally intended to provide maternity health care to Nairobi residents especially the poor indigenous Kenyans?
The sisters of Mercy came to Kenya in 1956 and were given a portion of land at Nairobi’s South B estate to carry out missionary work. The land was however swampy and infested with mosquitoes but the sisters stayed put determined to administer to the multi-racial community living there.
The initial 60-bed capacity facility was put up in 1962 by the Sisters of Mercy — a group of missionaries from Ireland on the invitation of then Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy.

At the time the sisters of Mercy were in-charge of every ward and the whole top floor was a convent where the sisters lived as they worked in the hospital.
“When I joined the congregation myself in 1983 and sent there (Mater Hospital) as young sister for my apostolate, there were about 33 sisters living in the community,” explains Sr Anne Itotia, Head of Trustees, Sisters of Mercy in Kenya.
The sisters ensured the hospital maintained the four main values: a Christ- centered hospital, integrity, compassion and Excellence.
Over time the number of Irish missionaries coming to Kenya declined and the number or Sisters of Mercy working in the hospital reduced as some of them grew old and died and others went back to Ireland.
Today the Sisters of Mercy do not work directly in the provision of healthcare at the hospital. The hospital had to bring in lay people to run the hospital while the sisters remained the trustees of the Mater Hospital and also sits at the board of the governing council.
“Our responsibility as the hospital trustees is to oversee and to ensure that the hospital remains true to its vision and its goals. This is to give quality healthcare at the most affordable prices to as many people as possible and to ensure that we keep to the vision of the founding sisters,” says Sr Rose Macharia of the Sisters of Mercy.

Over the years the hospital has grown to be one of the best private hospitals in Kenya with six medical centers spread in Buruburu, Development house within Nairobi Central Business District (CBD), Embakasi Estate, Kasarani, Westlands and Thika.
With a bed capacity of 176, the institution is able to accommodate all types of patients. They include: General ward bed (which has a bed, locker, visitors chair and common TV Room), Private rooms (with wash basins and TV), En-suite rooms (which are self contained and fitted with TV).

The hospital has a unique appeal with dedicated rooms to priests and religious persons from the Catholic Church and other denominations and religions who want to receive medical attention.
In fact, as the Jubilee year of Mercy concludes, the hospital has lived the call by offering ten percent discount of all charges to religious men and women from any congregations and priests.
The wards have 24 hour security guards and CCTV Surveillance to ensure safety of the patients. Fire and smoke detectors have also been installed and escape routes clearly marked.

It has fully automated medical records and healthcare activities, efficient casualty, accident and Emergency Department, an Intensive Care Unit, a modern radiology and renal department and a Cardiac Unit where open-heart surgery is performed.
The hospital has kept the standards of healthcare to international levels through the International Standards Organization (ISO) certification-ISO 9001:2008.
“Quality is an all round activity. It is a backbone of the institution through which the processes that govern how we deliver services to the clients and the policies that guide our operation of the institution are established upon,” says Lilian Chamwama, Acting Quality Assurance Manager at the Hospital.

The hospital is upgrading to ISO 9000:2015 to ensure improved standards in delivery of services.
The hospital boasts of quality nursing care in the various specialties of medical care including Pre and Post operative care, maternity, critical care, dialysis, counseling, wound management and general nursing care.
The hospital has also ensured that it maintains the standards of healthcare provisions to the clients with the introduction of the Hospital Information System.
The system has modules of the various units in the hospital. One of the modules is the radiology department that has made the process 100 percent paperless right away from the casualty till one gets to the department.
According to Elizabeth Nyaga, Manager at the Radiology department, Diagnostics unit at the Hospital, the hospital has come a long way to ensure efficient service delivery across the board.

She says that the hospital has already automated its system of handling patients whereby patients and doctors are able to access their details online.
“We receive the patient both online and physically because the hospital has a system-a data base referred as Hospital Information system-Life line,” says Ms Nyaga in an interview with The Seed.

Before the adoption of hospital information system, the radiology department for instance had to undergo the tedious process of manual process which was time wasting.
Patients would come with manual request form, notes Ms Nyaga, then have the receptionist document it, they would then walk with it physically to the radiographer, carry the manual paper to the radiologist who then would handwrite the report, take it to the typist, who would then type and print to give the patient the x-ray with the print out.
She says that the hospital was forced to do away with the process, since a typist would make mistakes forcing the doctors/radiologist to review the report many times noting that it wasted a lot of time.
“Currently a patient takes only five minutes to finish the whole process unlike over an hour doctors would spend dealing with a single patient,” says Ms Nyaga.
However, despite the strides the hospital has made over the years, the hospital is struggling to regain her mercy values, explains Sr Anne, the provincial superior of the Sisters of Mercy in Kenya.
“During the transitions when the sisters of Mercy left management to lay persons, we lost the connectivity and the values of Mercy. I would say that we didn’t do enough work to prepare the sisters,” she says.
To help bring back the values of mercy embraced by the founders, hospital has come up with Mission, Leadership and Pastoral department to help regain the values.
“It is like the face of mercy. It is meant to ensure that the decisions made are actually related to the values of the sisters of Mercy,” she says.
“We even sent our top employees to Ireland in 2014 to visit five of our hospitals and also one that is not run by the mercy sisters to enable them experience what Mercy is from the founderess,” notes Sr Anne.

The other challenge that the hospital has faced is lack of integrity such as cases of patients being overcharged and delays in services.
Mater hospital has for the past few years experienced cases of misappropriation of funds where over KSh 700M was lost.

“At first the management told us that KSh 12.2 Million could not be accounted for. This to me sounded enormous. We therefore instituted a forensic audit in July 2015.This is how we came to realize that it was actually not Ksh12.2 M but over 700 M had been misappropriated and misallocated. This had to do with cash in banks, projects and inventories,” explains Sr Anne.

In order to address the issues of misappropriation of funds in the hospital, it has since come up with checks and balances in management of finance and the governing council to manage the daily activities of the hospital and improve the standards.

Dr Lucina Koyio, Chairperson of the governing council of Mater Hospital, says that council’s main activity is to ensure that the hospital has a working system and to seal all loopholes that led to huge loss of money from the hospital.

“There was fraud in the hospital and so much money was lost .This is one of the reason why we came on board. We are working hard to ensure that we put our systems back and so that we no longer lose such lump sum of money at any one time in future,” Dr Lucina who doubles up as the Deputy county Director for Health, Nairobi County tells The Seed.

Besides just being treated, Mater Hospital has stood out as one of the private health institutions that are committed towards offering health care services with dignity and respect to her clients in Kenya and beyond.

By Henry Onyango


Mater Hospital: Where Mercy Heals