News / Africa

Sierra Leone Doctor Returns from US to Improve Health Services

Dr. Sylvester Nicol
Dr. Sylvester Nicol

Multimedia

Sierra Leone's health system has suffered from decades of corruption and the destruction wrought by a long civil war. The few functioning hospitals are under-staffed and short on medical supplies and equipment. Now a new medical center provides high quality services all under one roof. In this edition of Making a Difference we introduce you to Dr. Sylvester Nicol.

Freetown, Sierra Leone's bustling capital city, sits on the slopes of mountains that slide steeply into the Atlantic Ocean. During ten years of civil war, Sierra Leone's institutions crumbled from widespread corruption and the mass exodus of the country's  professional class. None more so than the health sector. Today a population of 6 million relies on the services of just 77 doctors.

Many Sierra Leoneans in the country's diaspora are now considering coming back.

One of the few to make the leap is Dr. Sylvester Nicol.  He moved home in 2008 after living abroad for 14 years.

He left behind a successful medical practice in the United States to establish a unique facility in Freetown.

"The concept was to have as many services under one roof as possible," Dr. Nicol explained. "This is a common concept elsewhere, but in Freetown usually after you see a physician you might have to go elsewhere for a lab test, then somewhere else to get an x-ray."

Dr. Nicol built and manages the medical center which offers out-patient, laboratory and x-ray services, a pharmacy and more sophisticated services such as ultrasounds and specialized lab work. The center also has an intensive care ward. "What I love about my job is the fact that people can get better and, if you do it well, quickly. It is very very rewarding," he said.

Dr. Nicol believes that a strong private sector is key to social development in his country. He believes his medical practice will convince others in the diaspora to move back home and rebuild their country.

"I think it is an incentive for people to come back especially the middle class folks who are the ones who drive the economy. They need and they are used to a certain type of healthcare," he said.

Sukai Alghali moved back to Freetown from London two years ago. She has trouble with high blood pressure but says the other health facilities in Freetown are not up to standard.  "The center is a God-send. I think for the doctor to leave America to come here, you know, it must be - he must have the love of the country," she said.

Although consultations cost only $15, many Sierra Leoneans cannot afford the  services at the medical center. But Dr. Nicol treats everyone who comes his way and tries to balance his business between those who can and those who cannot pay.

"In Africa you have to have services for people who cannot pay the 50,000 leones [$15]. Just as a medical person, you treat people who come through your door and you worry about being paid later," Dr. Nicol said.

It's not easy to operate such a center in Sierra Leone. Clinics here must cope with regular power cuts, a lack of trained medical personnel and drug shortages.

"It was a huge challenge," Dr. Nicol stated. "But like any significant thing that you do, it has to be challenging for it to be rewarding."  

Dr. Nicol has no regrets and no plans to move back to the United States.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid