Local doctors care for Ethiopia; surgeon founds hospital in rural African nation

Ethiopian-born Guadata Hinika (front right), a Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital trauma and surgery doctor, opens hospital and college in rural Ethiopian town. Colleagues otolaryngologist Satish Vadapalli (front left), surgical nurse Sheila Tesiny (back left) and Katreena Salgado, Ethiopia Health Aid COO have completed medical missions with Dr. Hinika in Ethiopia. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

Everyone in his community, including local doctors, believed he wouldn’t survive the traumatic injury to his head.

The 23-year-old Ethiopian man had little to no hope until he visited a new hospital in Ethiopia built by a Santa Clarita Valley doctor.

“He had an epidural hematoma, and when you get that with a broken skull you believe you’re going to die,” said Ethiopian-born Guadata Hinika, a Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital trauma and surgery doctor, and founder of the Ethiopian hospital. “With very limited resources we were able to elevate the broken bone and drain the epidural, and the kid was talking the next day. He went home the next week.”

Much like the young adult’s experience, Hinika and a group of other SCV medical experts have voluntarily helped hundreds of other Ethiopians at Negele Arsi General Hospital, which opened in July 2017. It took nearly a decade to build the multiple-floor facility, which sits on restored acreage that was once a landfill.

An aerial view of Negele Arsi General Hospital and Medical College in Ethiopia. Courtesy Photo.

 

The state-of-the-art hospital provides a wide range of care including emergency, outpatient and surgical services to an area of more than 1 million people. At 110 beds, the hospital has three surgeons, nine primary care physicians, an ophthalmologist and 16 staff members.

Supplies and equipment, such as ICU and ultrasound monitors not used by Henry Mayo, were donated to Negele Arsi Hospital.

There’s something vital about its location, Hinika said. The hospital in Negele Arsi, a rural town in southeastern Ethiopia, is five hours away from the closest city.

“We chose that place because it’s where the most help is needed,” said Hinika. In impoverished communities like Negele Arsi, there is one doctor for every 100,000 people, and about 40 percent of the younger generation dies to road injuries and accidents because families do not have access to nearby and affordable medical attention, according to Ethiopia Health Aid, the nonprofit organization behind the hospital.

With free and affordable care for all, Ethiopians have traveled far to receive aid from Negele Arsi Hospital. The goal, however, is to minimize that travel through outreach.

“We’ve built a central hospital, and that’s great, but it’s in a community that’s 250 kilometers away from everything else in every direction,” said Hinika. “Our dream is to reach out and affiliate our hospital with communities around, including refugee camps.”

In July, Hinika was accompanied by Henry Mayo otolaryngologist Satish Vadapalli and surgical nurse Sheila Tesiny, and they served in Ethiopian refugee camps. In one day, the team served about 500 people, aiding 300 in just the first four hours, according to Vadapalli.

Their work didn’t end with medical mission trips and the establishment of the Negele Arsi Hospital. There’s one more part to the hospital’s title: Medical College.

After building the facility, the college opened its doors with 129 students enrolled, offering studies in nursing, radiology and laboratory. Today, more than 500 students are taking classes in public health, medicine and other specialties.

“The idea behind this is that it starts with education,” said Katreena Salgado, Ethiopia Health Aid COO and former Henry Mayo Hospital employee. “An educated community is a healthier community. We built a model that’s about, you learn, you teach and then you heal.”

Doctors and nurses work at Negele Arsi General Hospital and Medical College. Courtesy Photo.

Hinika agreed, saying, “The trips we make are trips of love and of sharing information, teaching the teachers and building their knowledge so now they can treat a patient better.”

The nonprofit, which funds all services offered at the hospital and college, has also started the Gode Primary School, a small village school now expanded to provide education to 2,000 children. Ethiopia Health Aid also offers a robotics and summer STEM program, led by a 15-year-old Los Angeles student.

Hinika founded Ethiopia Health Aid in 2007 after wanting to do something about the lack of ambulances. Through fundraisers, he managed to bring numerous emergency vehicles to the African nation and build his team to help create the facilities that now stand in Ethiopia.

While much success surrounds the development and those benefiting from medical and educational services, the nonprofit continues to welcome volunteers to help expand what they’ve accomplished so far.

To find out about volunteer opportunities and how to donate, visit Ethiopia Health Aid, and visit Negele Arsi General Hospital and Medical College to learn more. 

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