Fieldset
Back to basics

I feel it is about time to give a better introduction to Benson Hospital, a little bit of history and a kind of virtual tour. This could be an epic journey, but to prevent you from getting lost I will attempt to present Benson in a blog-sized portion.

I feel it is about time to give a better introduction to Benson Hospital, a little bit of history and a kind of virtual tour. This could be an epic journey, but to prevent you from getting lost I will attempt to present Benson in a blog-sized portion. Therefore, below I depict Benson in a skeletal form, which I hope will prove useful in setting the scene for my future postings. I welcome questions & comments, in fact I positively encourage them…

Benson Hospital (‘Bravo Hotel’ in radio speak) is so-called because Dr Benson, a Liberian physician, used to run a gynaecological clinic in what is now our main hospital building. In 2003, MSF-Switzerland started to rent the building from Dr Benson, running a general hospital until 2005 when they handed over operations to their sister organization, MSF-Spain, who have run the hospital ever since. At that point, it was decided that Benson would focus on services for women and children, who were identified as the most vulnerable groups in Paynesville – a poor area in the east of Monrovia, and since the war years home to a large displaced population.

Naoya Iwasaki.  Benson main building

 

Photo: Naoya Iwasaki. Benson main building

Today, Benson Hospital comprises not only the original compound owned by Dr Benson, but also the adjoining compound and 2 additional compounds on the other side of the dusty road. The 3-storey main building, painted two-tone green (which reminds me of school), is a landmark in Paynesville – where even 2-storey buildings are a rare sight. Walk up the ramp into the main entrance, and inside the green walls you will find a hive of activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On the ground floor there are two operating theatres, an intensive care unit with space for 16 paediatric patients and a gynaecological ward with 27 beds. The patients admitted to the latter include women recovering from miscarriages & unsafe abortions, as well as operations such as caesarean sections & hysterectomies. Tucked discreetly in a corner of the indoor/outdoor maze of the ground floor is the morgue. Climb the stairs and there are a further 44 paediatric beds on the first floor, and another 10 on the second floor. The hospital offices, including my own, are also on this floor.

The adjoining compound is referred to as the ‘log compound’, however also on this site there is the emergency room and the laboratory – including what is apparently the largest blood reserve in Liberia (171 transfusions in March alone). Next to the lab, there is a small, hot kitchen where the food is prepared for the patients (porridge for breakfast and dinner, bulgur wheat for lunch), and an outdoor laundry area for caretakers to wash the clothes of the admitted patients (each admitted patient must be accompanied by a caretaker). The ‘log’ part of the ‘log compound’ includes a radio room, the waste management unit, a warehouse, parking for our 6 vehicles, a mechanic’s pit, fuel store and, and, and…

Cross the dusty road, and the final two compounds (phew!) house Benson’s central pharmacy and maternity unit (a further 12 beds). Here ends your virtual tour.