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Nixon Memorial Hospital, Sierra Leone

Nixon Memorial Hospital in Sierra Leone was built at Segbwema in the interior where a little clinic had been started in 1920 by Alice Medd, a missionary wife with District Nurse experience. The hospital opened in 1930 and, like Ilesha in Nigeria, had Wesley Guild support. Later it benefited from the interest of John Nixon of Newcastle upon Tyne who sponsored the expansion of the facilities between 1949 and his death in 1971 at the age of 96; it was then renamed in his memory.

A number of long-serving missionaries contributed to the development and reputation of the hospital. The first doctor, John Kearney, stayed until 1944 and established the work on a sound footing. He was followed by Elizabeth Johnson, 1944-54 and Len Wilkinson, 1955-71, while Jenny Gibson, a tuberculosis specialist, served in Sierra Leone from 1963 to 1994, for much of the time at a government hospital before returning to Segbwema. In the 1950s a School of Nursing was properly established and a Community Health programme set up, and following the outbreak of Lassa fever in 1976 it was designated for research into the disease. Isabel King (1975-9) was one of the pioneers in treating Lassa and co-authored some research papers and Aniru Conteh, the first Sierra Leonean medical superintendent (1980-91) became the world’s leading authority on Lassa.

The hospital remained open after civil war broke out in 1991, though Segbwema was in the heart of the war zone and had to be evacuated several times. Many patients and staff simply ran away when rebel attacks seemed imminent, but some nurses remained heroically in post to care for patients too infirm to flee. Then in 1999 the rebels took Segbwema and the hospital was trashed. Amid the ruins a day clinic opened in 2003, with one doctor, one nurse and one cleaner and in the following years the long task of re-establishing the hospital made gradual progress.

See also Medical Missions

Entry written by: JRP
Category: Organisation

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