New ELWA Hospital launches a new era for Liberian healthcare

By John Stuart | Liberia in West Africa

Dr. John Fankhauser looks out over the tropical, 130-acre Eternal Love Winning All (ELWA) campus in Monrovia, Liberia. On one side of the street the ELWA Hospital Executive Director sees the past - the old ELWA Hospital built by SIM in 1965.

Since then, nearly 2.7 million people have flowed through the facility, receiving quality care in a country with one of the worst patient-doctor ratios in the world.

Through multiple civil wars and, most recently, the Ebola epidemic, ELWA Hospital has remained true to its vision "to glorify God by ministering to the whole person - the spirit, the soul and the body."

But after 51 years, the hospital facilities were tired and outdated. Fortunately, on the other side of the street lies the future of ELWA healthcare - a brand new 47,000 square-foot hospital facility. The US$5 million, 87-bed hospital sits on 10 acres and represents a new era in modern medical care for Liberians.

After four years of construction, the modern hospital will open to the public this month. Though administered and staffed by ELWA and SIM, funds for the new hospital and equipment were provided by Samaritan's Purse.

Dedication of new hospital

Several hundred were in attendance Saturday, 22 October 2016, to dedicate the new hospital.

Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said in her remarks, "The ELWA premises became the place where people ran during the Ebola catastrophe.  What can we say about this facility, one that transcends everything we've wanted? It is something that compares to every other country. It is a monument to long-standing friendship and to God's love for Liberia. Though we have been subjected to calamity, we can rise up again to pursue the goal of the prosperity of our people. It gives us hope that Liberia is rising. It makes us proud."

ELWA Hospital Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jerry Brown gave a vision to the audience of what the hospital means for the future of Liberia.

"Too long we have lost loved ones to curable diseases," said Brown, who served as medical director of ELWA Hospital throughout the Ebola crisis. "Let us look beyond and be courageous to provide a better and resilient health system. This structure is not going to solve all the problems. We need specialists so we don't have to send people outside Liberia to seek treatment. We should keep hope alive; this is just the beginning of many fulfilled dreams."

SIM Liberia Director David Writebol thanked God for the occasion. "I hope that our gaze will look beyond the new buildings," Writebol said, "to see God's hand working through the great numbers of people who work daily in this place to bring about this historic ELWA Hospital."

Fankhauser served as a doctor and administrator during the tumultuous Ebola epidemic that racked the country in recent years. ELWA Hospital's mark on Liberia is indelible, he said.

"We are a small hospital," Fankhauser said in an email. "But the role the hospital has played in times of crisis has made us widely known as a Christian hospital that's gone above and beyond."

Fankhauser reiterated the promise of quality care from the new hospital.

"There's 50 years of history that leaves us as one of the most recognized names in healthcare in Liberia," Fankhauser said. "We're looking to provide the highest quality healthcare you can provide in Liberia and in doing so represent Christ in a way that honours him."

"It's our hope that people come here and receive physical healing," said Liberian Joe Wankollie, who was the acting SIM Liberia Director during the Ebola epidemic and currently serves as the SIM Liberia Deputy Director. "We also desire for our patients to have an encounter with Jesus Christ in a meaningful way while they're here in the hospital."

Chaplains pray regularly with patients if requested and the hospital holds daily devotions for staff and patients. All staff are also encouraged to incorporate faith into their medical care.

Wankollie emphasizes that the new hospital is for everyone. The hospital charges for services, but the ELWA Hospital Benevolence Fund assists patients who can't pay for care.

"We don't want people to shy away from the new hospital thinking that it is too expensive," Wankollie said. "We welcome all people who have need."

Writebol explained how ELWA Hospital is one example of what is possible through mission partnerships. SIM is fortunate to work with key international and domestic organisations, including the Evangelical Church of Liberia (ECOL), which has more than 100 churches across the country.

"We want to see these ministries grow and reach places where people are living and dying without hearing about Christ," Writebol said in an email. "ELWA campus is a great launch pad for these efforts and we want to keep that moving forward."

Learn more about ELWA Ministries here.

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