The Safaricom Marathon is considered as one of the most exciting and challenging sport activities yet. Participants in the upcoming run will not only get to experience beautiful nature and wildlife while running to raise funds for a worthy cause, but also face the scorching African heat, dusty terrain and the risk of various injuries. However, it is comforting to know that even in the heart of the remotely hidden gem that is Lewa Conservancy; there is a clinic with quality equipment and capable staff to deal with any eventualities.
Faith Kobia, a Nursing Officer at the Lewa Clinic, gives us a glimpse of how the Safaricom Marathon funds have supported Lewa’s Health and sanitation efforts and improved livelihoods of the surrounding communities.
When and why was Lewa Clinic started?
The clinic was started in 1997, about 19 years today. The main aim of starting Lewa clinic was to support the staff working in Lewa but the demand was high because we wanted to support the communities that surround Lewa. Now we see both patients from the community and those working at Lewa.
What services does the clinic offer?
The main services we give at Lewa Clinic are outpatient services which include: Curative services, Family planning (where we see mothers, start them on family planning and follow up on them), Mother and Child Clinic whereby we immunize children under 5 years, and a Maternal and Healthy child Clinic (where we see sick children).
Other services that we give are the Comprehensive Care Clinic (CCC) where we see patients with HIV and TB; we start them on ART and follow up on them.
We also do cancer screening for women, like a few months ago we had a massive screening whereby we screened about 174 women. During that campaign we were able to identify about 16 women who had pre-cancerous lesions, these women were referred for other services and luckily enough we are able to save them from advanced cancer.
Which other facilities are available at Lewa Clinic?
At Lewa clinic we run a 24 hr pharmacy whereby all patients who come here to receive treatment can access it. We also run a laboratory where we are able to do most of the lab tests required. In addition, we have three external health care service centres, which try to capture people from other parts. This is because some communities surrounding Lewa are quite marginalized, so they have to walk through very dangerous places across the conservancy to come here for services. So to avoid this, it is easier for the people to visit the smaller and nearest clinics first before being referred to Lewa Clinic which is like a headquarter.
How many patients do you get generally?
Almost every day we see about 50-60 patients, those are patients coming in for maternal, child and health clinic and also other curative services. In a month we are able to see about 600-700 patients.
How many personnel work at the clinic?
At Lewa clinic we have a health administrator who oversees the Lewa clinic and all the other clinics that are supported by Lewa. Then, we are three nurses who serve the patients 24hours, every nurse has to go on call for a week. We have a pharmacist, a lab technologist, a records clerk who is also our cashier; we also have a cleaner who takes care of the compound and sanitation of the clinic. The external clinics all have nurses but very few of them.
Are your services affordable to the community?
Something worth mentioning is that all our services are fully subsidized because the communities here are supported by Lewa in many different ways. We don’t want the people to go looking for health care elsewhere when we are supporting them in other different ways. Some will come and they can only pay consultation of Ksh. 50 or half a dollar, then they cannot afford lab and pharmacy requests, so if a patient comes here for treatment and has little money, we are able to subsidize their treatment according to their needs. For patients who come purely with no money and they are sick, we don’t let them go without treatment either, we have a kitty to cater for them. This is a big motivation to the community because we want to have a very healthy community that can even support the conservancy.
How are you able to subsidize or give free services?
The marathon kitty funded by the Safaricom Marathon is there specifically for people who cannot afford our services; we have almost 50% of the people in the community who cannot even afford the consultation fee, so they are taken care of by the marathon kitty. One case I can remember is we had a school child who is an orphan in a school supported by Lewa, he came in very sick and we had to refer him to another facility because we couldn’t manage him at our setup. Since he could not afford the services even where he was taken, the bill will be put under our marathon kitty to support this child.
With the marathon kitty, we are able to serve patients fully and they go out happy and they become healthy and they support our conservancy. So the marathon kitty has been very crucial in running the Lewa clinic, without which we would be in a big problem.
How else are you working with the community?
In the community we are doing different services to improve the healthcare of the people around. These include health programs such as Health education whereby we visit homes, teach them how to take care of their health. We do school health, whereby every 3 months we go and see these children in schools. We give them deworming medicine, we treat minor illnesses, and screening of visual acuity. This is to empower even the children to understand the importance of conservation and as they grow up they will bear in mind that it is important because it has taken care of their education and health, so we want these children growing up while understanding this from a very humble beginning.
What impact has Lewa Clinic had on the community?
Lewa clinic has made a very big impact to the people around this conservancy. One, people are able to get both minor and major illnesses treated well. Sometimes you get instances of human-wildlife conflict and when these people are brought here they are taken care of free of charge.
Lewa clinic also supports by educating people in the community about preventive measure they can take against some of the illnesses that they can get hence now we get a very healthy community. On family planning, we ensure that women are exposed to the family planning services such that they are able to get the number of children they can support and maintain, and one advantage of having fewer children especially for people surrounding Lewa is that parents are able to take care of them thus they don’t become poachers or a threat to the conservancy.
How has it been having the Safaricom Marathon here?
The Safaricom Lewa Marathon has been very helpful in successfully running the healthcare program.
People around have also been encouraged to keep fit enough so that they can take part in the marathon. When they participate and like the children get good numbers, they are rewarded by Lewa.
It has brought a lot of impact as well because not many people know about Lewa but the marathon creates awareness and when the people come for the marathon they get to learn about programs such as the healthcare ones. So I believe that the marathon enlightens people in the community and even in the whole world, because we find people from other communities apart from the ones supported by Lewa who come in to seek our services. The good thing is that we don’t charge them differently because they are coming from other places and the reason is that we want them to know that Lewa exists, there is importance of conserving wildlife. So it is like publicizing ourselves and reminding people that conservation is important. Even in cases where we have our animals straying into the communities, the people cannot kill them because they know this service is there because of the conservancy.
What’s in the future for Lewa clinic?
In terms of advancement, the clinics’ priority is having a maternity and more staff to be able to fully run a 24 hour facility. We have many mothers who come here for maternity and antenatal clinic but we don’t have the facilities for them to deliver here so we send them elsewhere. That is a big problem because the nearest hospital from here is quite far, about 40 km away, so achieving this would be a big plus for the community.