Mattru Hospital has been an important and highly respected ministry in southern Sierra Leone for many years. The hospital operates primarily under the leadership of medical and administrative personnel from Sierra Leone and other African countries.
Mattru Hospital shut down in 1994, when all Global Ministries personnel were evacuated from the country. Rebels swooped in and ransacked the hospital, destroying decades of hard work.
In 2001, as the rebel war came to an end, Doctors Without Borders reopened the Mattru Hospital, and invested thousands of dollars in equipment, renovations, and personnel. They discontinued their work in 2002 and turned the hospital over to Sierra Leone Conference.
The hospital has struggled to maintain itself without the money and personnel (paid by Global Ministries) which had made the hospital so successful in the past. But new sources of funding have been developed--the United Nation, the Sierra Leone First Lady's office, and foundations. This ministry continues to grow and serve the people of Sierra Leone.
History of Medical Work in Sierra Leone Conference
One of the original three persons sent to “spy out the land” in 1855, J. C. Kumler, was a medical doctor. However, he stayed only a few months.
In the early 1900s, several missionaries took coursework in tropical medicine, qualifying them to treat various ailment. However, it wasn’t until 1934 that a licensed physician, Dr. Leslie Huntley (right, with family), arrived on the field. He was joined in 1936 by Emma Hyer, a registered nurse. They worked out of a dispensary at Danville.
Both Huntley and Hyer joined the US military during World War 2 and served in various countries; Emma Hyer would return for a period during the 1950s, but Huntley never did.
The Danville dispensary closed for a couple years until two more nurses, Oneta Sewall and Martha Bard, arrived from the States. Oneta Sewell transferred to Mattru in 1950 to open a dispensary and was soon joined by another RN, Juanita Smith. They started a nursing school, preparing for the eventual opening of a hospital at Mattru, in addition to holding daily clinics at Mattru and in surrounding villages, and sometimes holding evangelistic meetings. Other nurses joined them in the years ahead, and Mattru became an important medical station.
Finally, in 1957, a medical doctor arrived: Dr. Alvin French and his family. They left in 1959, and were replaced by Dr. Sylvester Pratt (right, with family), a Sierra Leonean who had just finished his medical internship after earning a medical degree from Indiana University. Whereas French had done only a few minor surgeries, under Pratt the Mattru Hospital became a very busy surgical hospital.
Mattru Hospital was then a 15-bed cement block facility without electricity or plumbing. Pratt set up an operating room, and the hospital was soon bursting at the seams with patients in need of surgery, many of whom had to be turned away. Funding came not only from United Brethren in North America, but from the Sierra Leone government and from a British mining company located near Mattru.
The hospital was expanded to 34 beds, an 18-bed pediatric unit was built in 1966, a maternity ward was started in 1970, and x-ray and laboratory facilities were built. Skilled Sierra Leoneans joined the medical team, along with a continuing string of nurses and other medical practitioners from North America.
Dr. Pratt returned to the States in 1974, seeking treatment for a serious eye infection, and he ended up establishing a medical practice in Dayton, Ohio. But he was replaced in 1974 by Dr. Ron Baker (right), who had grow up in Sierra Leone (and spoke the Mende language fluently) as the son of United Brethren missionaries.
Under Baker's leadership as Chief Medical Officer, and with the addition of other skilled surgeons, Mattru became a prominent and very busy surgical hospital. By 1981, Mattru Hospital had grown to 69 beds with pediatrics, obstetrics, surgical, and outpatient units. Many buildings had sprung up on the hospital’s 15 acres.