|Dr. Thompson Kinge Njie|
“There is no reason why patients should die of cholera...”
-Dr. Thompson Kinge Njie, Director, Regional Hospital Limbe, Cameroon
The Regional Hospital Limbe –Cameroon is one of cleanest hospitals in the country, its staffers are not only duty-conscious but also polite .The hospital is also well- managed. Dr.Thompson Kinge Njie, a respectable medical doctor and Switzerland-trained infectious disease specialist, is the hospital’s director now for six years. With the recent outbreak of cholera in Limbe-Cameroon, The Recorder Editor, Christopher Ambe visited the hospital to find out about the situation and more.
Hospital Director, Dr.Kinge Njie, despite his busy schedule, sat down for an interview with the editor. Read on:
Dr. kinge, thank you for accepting to talk to The Recorder despite your very busy schedule.
Let me also thank you for the concern your newspaper has for this hospital and the services it renders to the general public.
We are always open to the public and ready to serve, and to save lives!
Mr. Director, how would you present this hospital to the public?
The Regional Hospital Limbe is a government owned tertiary care health institution with a capacity of 200 beds. Its primary mission is to offer quality care to patients. As a reference hospital, it is also, as expected, involved in offering pedagogic support to training institutions of health personnel in the country and in operational research within the context of improving patient welfare.
Would you say this hospital is OK in terms of equipment and personnel?
No. I would certainly like to see the latest diagnostic equipment with plenty of precision and personnel (doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians etc) with fresh training and regularly updated knowledge in medicine. You know the profession of medicine is very dynamic and being entirely satisfied today with present technology and knowledge without the quest to improve is tantamount to staying obsolete without any future. However, as a level three hospital, I can say with thorough satisfaction that with the equipment in place now and personnel put at our disposal by the minister of public health, His Excellency Andre Mama Fouda, we are capable of handling 85 – 90% of all the pathologies seen at the Regional Hospital Limbe. Between 10 – 15% are referred to Douala or Yaounde.
We learned of an outbreak of cholera in Limbe. What is the situation at your hospital this far?
We are still receiving patients with cholera at the hospital. Since the outbreak was noted on April 19, 2011, our hospital has registered about 420 patients among whom 400 have been discharged after receiving adequate treatment. It is said to note also that five of the 420 patients have died.
What are the measures taken by the hospital or the government to check the spread of this fatal disease?
The hospital is here to treat patients and we are doing so in accordance with President Paul Biya’s vision to offer quality health care to all Cameroonians. Remember, in his end of year message of 31st December, 2010, he reiterated once more, and I quote: “The fight against major pandemics is not slowing down... The living conditions of our people remain our main concern. I believe that access to water should improve with the commissioning of infrastructure under construction, especially in urban centres”.
Within the context of this cholera outbreak, I am once more experiencing the concrete match of his words with action. Like in other places where we have had cholera outbreaks in Cameroon, all the patients are receiving free treatment following strict instructions by the minister of public health. Facilities have been provided for capacity building of our staff. These measures explain the good outcome noted with nearly all the patients who have been registered so far in our hospital.
In the community, means have been provided by the government to the district health services for mass sensitization, disinfection of contaminated environments and to distribute freely, prophylactic treatment to relatives and friends who have had close contacts with cholera patients. Local administrative authorities like the Governor and SDO as well as other stakeholders like the government delegate to the Limbe City Council have been fully involved also in mass sensitization campaigns and in efforts to increase potable water supply to the community. These measures as you can see, are in consonance with President Paul Biya’s prescriptions to improve the living conditions of Cameroonians.
So far as cholera is concerned, what advice do you have for the public?
I wish to stress the fact that cholera can kill within a short time but the treatment is very simple in its concept and execution. It simply says that all the water and salts that a patient has lost in cholera stool should be replaced in comparable amounts and concentrations. With free treatment provided by the government and the well trained committed staff we have in place, there is no reason why patients should die of cholera. All the patients who have died since the cholera outbreak started about two weeks ago were brought late to the hospital. They could not respond to treatment. I am therefore using this opportunity to say that once patients notice the first signs of diarrhoea and or vomiting, they should be rushed immediately to the hospital where adequate treatment will be started without any payments. Beside that, people should continue to respect simple rules of hygiene – washing hands after using the toilet and before using them to eat anything. They must avoid the use of stream water and only drink clean potable water.
What makes the Regional Hospital Limbe special or different from other hospitals operating in the region?
I do not think the Regional Hospital Limbe is different from other state -owned hospitals operating in the region. All the hospitals including ours are expected to operate within the vision and health policy road map of the head of state, President Paul Biya. That is why the Minister of Public Health has been insisting on quality health care in all tertiary care hospitals like the Regional Hospital, Limbe. The concrete expression of this policy in the Regional Hospital Limbe is seen in our work organisation efforts, regular in-service training of our staff, the fight against corruption and the special attention to respect the dignity and privacy of our patients.
What would you like to see improved in the hospital by government?
First of all, I would like to appreciate the constant efforts by the minister of health to improve on the infrastructure and equipment of the hospital. For example, last year, 2010, the minister of health disbursed 100 million francs CFA for the phase I construction of an out patient and an emergency department. However, it is important to note that when the hospital was first built in 1948, the population Limbe was estimated to be about 15.000 inhabitants. In addition to the fact that today, the Regional Hospital Limbe has a referral status in the entire South West Region; the population of Limbe has grown so much to about 150.000 inhabitants. Space has therefore become small. We need more wards and offices. We need complete renovation of some of the very old buildings to take care of regular plumbery and electricity problems from old installations.
Specialist doctors seem to be in short supply – what is the situation in the Regional Hospital Limbe?
Our hospital like several others in the country needs more doctors – not only specialist doctors. For a hospital like this to run smoothly, we need about 8 general practitioners but we only have 4 at the moment. The need for specialist doctors cannot be overemphasized. Top on our list is an urgent need for a paediatrician, an internist, a second surgeon, a third gynaecologist, a radiologist, an ENT specialist and an ophthalmologist. These will further reduce the number of referrals to other health institutions in and out of the Region.
Before I leave you, could you tell the public a bit about your career profile?
I graduated from the University Centre for Health Sciences (CUSS) in 1987, and was immediately posted to work in the Sub-Divisional Hospital Puma in the then Littoral Province, as the chief medical officer. In 1991, I was moved to the Divisional Hospital in Mamfe until September 1994, when I went to the University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland for a specialization course in infectious diseases. As soon as I completed studies in December, 1999, I started work with the assignment to open an infectious diseases unit at the Central Hospital Yaounde in May 2000. I occupied the post of a chief of service in that unit until September 2005 when I was appointed the Director of the Regional Hospital in Limbe. As you can see, it is not a long page of profile but I am comfortable in my responsibilities and learning processes that go with them.