Holy Family Hospital, Berekum, Ghana
Providing health care at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to those in need today.
Medical Mission Sisters arrived in Berekum, Ghana, in 1948, and began what evolved into Holy Family Hospital, our first foundation on the continent of Africa. The hospital is one of three Ghanaian hospitals accredited for post-graduate training of doctors in gynecology and pediatrics, and consequently attracts many young doctors for training.
“The people gave a piece of their own land – a large piece,” says Sister-Doctor Fernande Pelletier. “They cleared the land, built the first house and met the (first) Sisters with drumming and food and handkerchiefs.” From a simple dispensary, the facility grew to a 185-bed district hospital that serves as the base for nurses’ training college and midwifery school.
Sister Fernande, who is originally from Maine, arrived at the hospital in 1961. “I always had it in my heart to go to Africa, “she recalls. Initially, she served as the hospital’s only doctor, and was called upon to perform everything from surgery, to helping with basic sanitary needs. She learned Twi, the local dialect, so she could speak directly to her patients, as well as to the nurses and midwives she trained over the years. She became a naturalized Ghanaian citizen in 1973.
In addition to her work in the hospital’s outpatient department and on the isolation ward, Sister Fernande is in charge of the hospital’s Poor and Sick Fund. She is also very involved with training health personnel and travels monthly to a remote clinic in Seikwa, a town 20 miles away, to oversee care.
The Ghanaian people continue to show their gratitude for the hospital and Sister Fernande. The government awarded her its Grand Medal for her outstanding rural medical services to the Ghanaian people. In 2006, Sister Fernande received a Lifetime Excellence Award and Gold Medal from the Ghana Medical Association.
Sister-Doctor Fernande visits a child in the pediatric ward of Holy Family Hospital.