Macha Mission Hospital, Zambia
Location & Community
Macha Hospital rests in a rural area, 40 miles from the nearest town of Choma, in southern Zambia. Choma is populated with about 30,000 people and is found on the main North - South road that runs through Zambia. This rural area contains some commercial farming (tobacco), as well as other cash crops, including cotton, maize, and paprika. The climate is similar to that experienced in the southern United States with one major exception: the schedule is reversed. June to August is quite cool, October to November can be quite hot, and the rainy season lasts from December to March.
People of the Tonga-tribe populate the area, living in small homesteads. Maize is the main crop grown and the staple diet supplemented with peanut, sweet potatoes and other leafy green vegetables as relish. Most farmers in the area own, cattle, which are sold for cash and provide milk to their diet. Cattle also provide drawing power on the farms. There are several schools in the area, which have raised the level of education to grade 12 for 60% of the population.
TransportationVisitors should arrive at either Lusaka, the capital city, or in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. The hospital can arrange pickup by car from either location. Arriving visitors may also travel to the hospital by bus, which is less expensive, or by air charter from Lusaka to the airfield located at the hospital. The latter may be cheaper, particularly if others fly at the same time.
Visa RequirementFor current information, please visit the Zambian Embassy website appropriate for your country. The website for the Zambian Embassy in the USA is http://www.zambiaembassy.org/. US citizens can normally receive a “tourist” visa on arrival at the airport.
Traveler’s Health & SafetyPlease check the CDC travel website for the most up-to-date health information: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx, and consult with your physician before traveling.
Malaria prophylaxis is usually recommended for visitors to Zambia. HIV prevalence in Zambia is an estimated 16 percent, and HIV prophylactic medication is usually available. Yellow fever vaccinations are not normally necessary for a visitor to Zambia. However, it may be required if the traveler plans subsequent travel to Asian countries after visiting sub-Saharan Africa. Vaccination against hepatitis is recommended.
Visitors are advised to regularly check the U.S. State Department website for the most up-to-date information regarding travel advisories: http://www.state.gov/travelandbusiness/
PatientsInfectious disease predominate the health concerns in this region, and include malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, and HIV/AIDS (estimates of prevalence in Zambia range from 16-18%). Chronic illnesses are on the rise. Rheumatic heart disease and diabetes mellitus type 2 are both very common. Obstetrical emergencies, including obstructed labor and septic abortion, are commonly encountered. In Zambia, cancer of the cervix is the most common neoplastic disease, causing extensive morbidity and mortality.
LanguagesEnglish is routinely used in the hospital, and staff can interpret for local villagers who may not know English. The locally spoken language is Chitonga.
FacilitiesMacha Mission Hospital serves a local population of about 150,000 in its catchment area, which in some directions can extend well over 100 km to the next closest medical facility. The Zambian Brethren in Christ (BIC) Church operates the Hospital. It opened in 1957 and has grown to a 208-bed facility with a full range of services. Separate inpatient wards are available for male, female, maternity, pediatrics, and TB/leprosy. Each inpatient ward houses 40-50 patients. Inpatients services include non-contrast radiology, ultrasound, and a clinical laboratory providing basic studies. The hospital has an excellent reputation throughout Southern Zambia, with many patients coming from afar for treatment at the Hospital.
Outpatient facilities include a primary health center, a general outpatient clinic, dental clinic, an eye clinic, and an HIV/AIDS clinic that provides antiretroviral therapy. Macha Mission Hospital conducts mobile maternal/child health programs at 17 area sites. In addition, the hospital operates a nurse’s training school.
In the early 1990s, Macha Mission Hospital expanded its vision to include establishment of the Malaria Research Institute at Macha (MIAM). The Institute is now a field research site affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Those wishing to primarily participate in or carry out a research project at Macha should communicate early with the research institute staff about possible projects. More recently, the Institute is branching out in TB and HIV/AIDS research as well.
WebsiteGeneral information about Macha, Choma District, Zambia:
Medical student report on his studying at Macha in 2007:
Malaria Institute At Macha:
Health Profession StaffPhillip Thuma, MD, is a Johns Hopkins Hospital trained, Board-certified pediatrician who also heads the malaria research institute. John Spurrier, MD, is an American physician and the Chief Medical Officer. Lester Mann is a pediatric emergency medicine physician from Saint Louis University. They are complemented by four Zambian national physicians. Ken Johnson, MD, a Board-certified American surgeon is available for consultations.
Student ExperienceMedical students and resident physicians at Macha are expected to make regular rounds on the assigned ward with the staff doctors, see outpatients in the clinics both mornings and afternoons, and assist in the operating theatre twice weekly. Usual hours in the hospital are from 8 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. While direct supervision is available at all times from the staff doctors, students and residents are encouraged to take responsibility for patient care as assigned. They are placed on the on-call schedule to take first call for admissions at night and on weekends, with a staff doctor on second call and always immediately available. Weekly lectures are given on appropriate topics, and students are expected to participate.
Student Lodging & MealsStudents and residents are accommodated in either a hospital guesthouses or at the malaria research (MIAM) dorm. If accommodated in the guesthouse, the visitors are expected to prepare their own meals. Accommodation in the MIAM dorm does not include cooking facilities, but meals are available in a dining room at a nominal cost. Two simple restaurants are also located in the area.
All housing is within walking distance of the hospital, and on-call is taken from the houses. Individuals should be aware that running water is often only available in the hospital guesthouses for a few hours in the morning and evening. Houses are constructed of brick with screens on most windows, have electricity and appliances such as electric refrigerators and stoves. Check with the hospital before traveling as to whether a mosquito net is already in the house, or whether one should bring their own net.
Outside CommunicationWireless Internet access is available through the Malaria research institute for a small fee. Visitors are advised to bring their own portable computers along to Macha. They may also use the local Internet café. The hospital has phone access by cell phone only.
Facility SupportINMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to donate to the facility for hosting them. This is not required but allows INMED participants to become involved in every aspect of medical missions.
Behavior & DressVolunteers should be aware that Macha Mission Hospital is administered by the Brethren in Christ Church in Zambia with all local housing owned by the church. People living and working at the hospital are expected to respect the church’s beliefs, even if they themselves do not adhere to the same beliefs. Use of alcoholic beverages, tobacco or any addictive drugs is prohibited, and unmarried adults of the opposite sex may not live in the same house together. Because Macha is a culturally conservative area, women are expected to wear dresses/skirts and are usually not seen in public with short skirts or shorts. Women can wear slacks in the evenings. Shorts are worn by men only for sports, outdoor work and sightseeing at tourist locations, not for hospital work.