Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital started to render services in 2007 under the auspices and budgetary support of the Ethiopian Federal Republic Government through Mekelle University as a university teaching hospital. The hospital was the only comprehensive specialized hospital in Tigray and served as a referral hospital for about 9 million people from Tigray, parts of Afar and Amhara regions. In addition to the health care services, it also gives trainings in different medical science disciplines for undergraduate, post graduate and PhD students including MDs and specialty clinical trainings under its college of health sciences.
The hospital has more than 500 inpatient beds, 30 emergency beds, 8 medical ICU beds, 8 surgical ICU beds, 10 pediatric ICU beds, 20 Neonatal ICU beds, 15 burn unit beds, 10 operation theatre beds and a dialysis unit with a capacity of 12 patients at a time. The average annual number of patients who get service in the hospital is more than 300,000 patients.
The hospital has more than 3600 employees, including 40 subspecialist doctors, 100 specialist doctors 93 residents doctors 21 GPs, 814 nursing staff and 100 midwives.
The College of health sciences under the hospital has played significant role in improving medical care in Ethiopia by training health care professionals at different levels, including policy makers. The current vice minister of health is a graduate from our college. The college has so far graduated more than 800 Specialists doctors in different clinical specialties, more than 1400 general medical practitioners and thousands of health officers and nurses.
It is to be noted that there is no hospital in the country which started specialty, subspecialty, and PhD trainings in just 10 years after its establishment. Among the different colleges in Mekelle University, the college of health sciences has been the first for consecutive years in terms of total number of health research publications in international reputable journals.
Though the hospital was relatively young, its advance in the clinical service and medical education was remarkable. The hospital not only diversified the services but also upgraded them and as a result many services have been given at a subspecialty level to mention few: minimally invasive surgeries, cardiac catheterization, interventional gastroenterology services, advanced imaging including CT and MRI and forensic medicine. The hospital was an eye opener for many hospitals in Ethiopia by demonstrating that it is possible to provide better care even being a public hospital which might seem unrealistic for many taking the Ethiopian context. Many hospitals in Ethiopia have followed its footsteps. When dialysis was a hot issue in the country and was almost impossible to provide it in public hospitals, our hospital came up with an innovative idea of private public partnership and started & continued to give dialysis to date to the relief of many patients. Our hospital was the only hospital out of the capital Addis Ababa, which commenced forensic medicine and played its role in availing fair justice to the public.
The achievement of the hospital was not only due to the committed staffs and good leadership but also due to its more than 21 international partners in Europe and US which were quite instrumental in supporting the hospital in training of its staffs abroad, availing funds, and supplying medical equipment which was not available in the local market. They were also important in mentoring our staffs to win big competitive research grants as a result the college now houses many project amounting to a total of 315 million BIRR, though none of the projects are active currently as they cannot use their bank accounts.
To the testimony of the hospital’s endeavor and quality of services, the hospital received the Ethiopian national quality service award in 2019 from the then president of the Ethiopian federal republic government which was a big achievement for such a young hospital in a remote part of Ethiopia compared with those in Addis which have relatively better resources.
Just after the war broke out in November 2020 the hospital was not able to get its budgetary support from the federal government, it was not able to use its bank account. No fuel for generators and ambulances. No local market to procure consumables. Intravenous (IV) fluid for resuscitation and oxygen has become a luxury in the hospital. Using expired drugs including cancer chemotherapy is common in the hospital. Gloves are re-used for surgeries. Autoclave does not work regularly and offering caesarian section delivery is not possible for obstructed laboring mothers. Handling civilian mass casualty due to air strikes has been impossible in a hospital where you do not have IV fluids, blood components, oxygen and functioning autoclave. The hospital could not pay salaries for its staff for 15 months. It is not uncommon to see staffs collapsing while on duty due to hunger. Some staffs have been seen begging for bread on the streets of Mekelle. A son of a physician developed malnutrition and his father had to care for him with other malnutrition children. Some staffs of the university have been found dead at home probably due to starvation. The IRCS donated 15 kg of wheat flour 3 times in the last one year. It is quite touching to see all staffs including the senior clinical staffs and professors to line up for half a day for the 15kg donation and yet thankful for the donation. Most health professionals are depressed and significant number has developed PTSD. In other parts of the world the health professionals themselves are typical patients who require major intervention and follow up.
You would not get a better example of how devastation a war is than to see the current status of this aspiring, ambitious and progressive hospital. There is no medicine, there is no power, there is no water and staffs are starving and patients continuously flow to the hospital as they have nowhere to go but simply come just to die. Professionals are readily available in the hospital but just to mourn with the family. A hospital which has been doing miracles to save patients is now not able to even do a proper post mortem care. Dead bodies have to be sent immediately so that they do not decompose while in the hospital as even formalin is not readily available and the refrigerator is not functioning because of power interruption.