Stories

Sister Semegne, Ethiopia

The cleanliness has brought new respect and satisfaction to all at St. Paul’s Hospital

Sister Semegne has walked to St. Paul’s Hospital in Addis Ababa every day for the past 20 years. The hospital provides a range of services to patients from all over Ethiopia. It offers orthopaedics, cardiology, oncology and neurology. Moreover, it is the only kidney transplant hospital in Ethiopia.

When Sister Semegne began her nursing career in 1998, her intent was to help relieve the sick from pain. “I loved this profession because I was saving lives and helping people.”

But over time, she grew weary. However hard she worked, patients complained. Because the hospital was not clean. “Waste was not segregated, water supply was poor, there was no ventilation, toilets were not clean if at all they were functioning,” admits Sister Semegne.

It didn’t even matter what medical services we offered, people just didn’t want to come. Patients complained about the smell.

No matter how much compassion she showed, she felt her patients were still unsatisfied and uncomfortable. “It didn’t even matter what medical services we offered, people just didn’t want to come. Patients complained about the smell. It was out of my hands,” she adds. She lost hope and wanted to quit.

But then, the Ministry of Health launched the Clean and Safe Health Facility programme in 2014. The aim is to make health facilities clean, safe and comfortable to patients, visitors and staff. Hospitals that have introduced the programme experience fewer patient infections. Quality of care improves.

Interventions include providing safe and sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene; healthcare waste management; better management of visitor crowds; and kitchen and laundry services.

The programme engages hospital leaders and empowers staff through training. Patients recognize the excellence of hospital staff and communities around the hospital “co-own” the nicer hospital gardens which are made available to all.

The cleanliness of Ethiopia’s health care facilities tell the attitude of their communities, says H.E Professor Yifru Berhan Mitke, Minister of Health of Ethiopia.

Forty per cent of healthcare facilities in low- and middle-income countries lack safe water and nearly 20% have no sanitation at all. The World Health Organization has been analysing how improved water and sanitation contribute to improving quality of healthcare. Receiving quality health services is an important pillar of the global drive towards universal health coverage.

Patients are now very satisfied. St. Paul’s has become one of the cleanest hospitals in the country. When I walk to work now, I am proud and happy to be a nurse.

St. Paul’s launched its programme in 2015 with the moto “Clean Care is Safer Care.’ The hospital adopted national standards and an audit tool, set by the Ministry of Health. Since then, healthcare attitudes and skills have improved, patients are aware of the improvements, communities have been engaged and the hospital infrastructure is better.

Moving forward, St. Paul’s Hospital is developing manuals and tools for each ward so that teams can evaluate their activities based on ward needs.

“Patients are now very satisfied,” says Sister Semegne who is currently the coordinator of the out-patient department. “St. Paul’s has become one of the cleanest hospitals in the country. We have green spaces where patients and their family can wait and relax and cleanliness is seen as the responsibility of everybody,” states Sister Semegne. “When I walk to work now, I am proud and happy to be a nurse. The cleanliness has brought new respect and satisfaction to all at St. Paul’s Hospital.”

  • Infographic on the role of water, sanitation and hygiene in achieving universal health coverage

    Open link
  • Fact sheet on universal health coverage

    Open link

Share this story:

Read more stories

The World Health Organization stands behind countries that invest in Universal Health Coverage. Click on stories to learn how countries are investing in the long-term prosperity of their people.