Establishing a Neurology Hospital in Somaliland

Essa Kayd and patients, families
Essa Kayd, center (in lab coat) with a patient and family members in Somaliland.

Essa Kayd is a native of Somaliland, which is recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia, Africa, and is comprised of about  7 million people. He returned in 2009, after having been out of Somaliland for 29 years, and began the process of establishing a neurology hospital. This week, Essa will return once again to continue his mission, his “raison d’etre.”

By Essa Kayd, Supervisor of Neurology and EMG for BWH

Four years ago, I returned to Somaliland to take my aunt for surgery and my nephew to receive care after he experienced some fainting spells.

The closest country where this could be done was Ethiopia, which borders Somaliland. We took a plane to get there, rented a hotel room, hired an interpreter and left everybody behind.

I was determined to have my aunt treated and operated on as safely as possible. After her surgery was successfully completed, it was my nephew’s turn to see a neurologist. There, I met more patients from Somaliland and surrounding countries. The neurologist is among very few specialists in the whole continent, and neurological disorders including neuro-infectious diseases are a common cause of disability and death.

I looked carefully around the waiting room and noticed the dear prices that a minimum procedure would cost patients – in terms of time, money, and having to leave their families for a time.

I decided that I wanted to bring neurology to Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, to make it more accessible to these people.

We started with a one-room clinic located in the Edna Aden Hospital, a maternity hospital in Somaliland.

Because of the high volume of patients suffering from stroke, epilepsy and neuro-infectious diseases, I knew we needed more. I have used my own financial resources to turn this one-room clinic into a facility, where most of the common neurology disorders are treated.

We had created 29 more jobs, including nurses, technicians, lab technicians, physical therapy aides, and local doctors. I contacted general practitioners, residents and neurologists in nearby countries and trained technicians to perform EEGs and EKGs. In addition, the graduates of Khyber Medical College in Pakistan were willing to work on a volunteer basis at the hospital, and last year, we had a continuous flow of general practitioners, residents and neurologists from Pakistan on a visiting basis.

The hospital consists of three outpatient departments, 27 patient rooms furnished with beds donated by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a well-equipped laboratory and pharmacy.

In 2012, about 15,000 patients visited the hospital for treatment and disease management. The hospital is maintaining its registry and follows the patients to provide them long term care in the best possible way.

Despite the sky high efforts, there is still a need of persistent improvement in the hospital to fulfill the needs of the large population of Somaliland. I hope that our committed work, sincere efforts and the cooperation of Brigham and Women’s Hospital will fill all the gaps and deficiencies and will make the Hargiesa Neurology Hospital a greater hospital for the people of Somaliland.

I am thankful to everyone from our BWH Neurology Department who relieved me from my duty at BWH while I was working in Somaliland, especially Drs. Amato and Samuels, and Tim Lynch. Thanks to BWH environmental services who donated some used beds and tables.

Building something that lasts and has a major impact on the community has always been my dream and ma raison d’etre (reason for being).