Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries, and access to healthcare is beyond the reach of many living in rural parts of the island.
But for nearly 30 years, SIM’s Good News Hospital has been a beacon of hope for the district of Mandritsara, where many villages have no gospel witness and where vast swathes of the area are inaccessible even to 4×4 vehicles for all but a few months at the end of the dry season each year.
What began as a small outpatient clinic, is now a 58-bed hospital with three general operating theatres, an ITU, eye surgery theatre, two inpatient wards and a maternity ward.
It carries out approximately 1,800 operations a year and provides for Mandritsara’s population of 250,000 – as well as patients from across northern Madagascar – where staff share the gospel, as well as provide life-saving, compassionate care.
The hospital day starts at 7.30am with a gospel talk, with many patients already gathered on the benches in the main outpatient department. The Malagasy people love listening to stories, and so they love listening to words from the Bible. Each ward has a gospel talk every morning and evening, and the hospital employs three full-time evangelists who spend time talking and praying with patients, as well as distributing gospel tracts.
All the staff are Christians, who have the opportunity to pray and share the gospel with patients, and the team prays together before every operation.
“Most of the people here are animists, which brings a lot of fear into their lives, but at the Good News Hospital, they hear the gospel,” says senior surgeon Ted Watts, who’s been serving with SIM UK in Madagascar since 2017, alongside his wife Rachel, a paediatrician.
“When patients come back for follow-up treatment, we ask them what they’ve made of what they’ve heard.”
Despite heart-wrenching encounters of suffering and death due to advanced disease and limited resources, the staff draw strength that since the hospital started, more than 60 churches have been started in surrounding communities, so God is clearly at work.
However, with very limited training opportunities and fewer than 100 surgeons serving the island’s 26 million inhabitants, the hospital has always relied on overseas missionary surgeons and the challenge is how to equip the hospital for the day when that’s no longer the case.
To secure the hospital’s long-term future, it launched an exciting programme to train Malagasy doctors where there are most needed. Spearheaded by Ted, who is sent by Beeston Free Evangelical Church, the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) course trains and disciples Malagasy Christian junior doctors to be highly-skilled and compassionate surgeons, who love Jesus and love to make him known to others.
“While we do very much welcome both junior and senior doctors from the UK and overseas joining us for a short time, at the heart of our plan is looking to the future, when some years down the line, we’ll have local, Malagasy surgeons, who are mission-minded and providing high-quality surgical care,” explains Ted.
“We believe the best way forward is to train Malagasy doctors who in turn, can train the next generation of missionary surgeons to follow in their footsteps,” he adds.
The new theatre complex, which opened in 2021, provides facilities for the trainees who will graduate after five years with a surgical qualification equivalent to one from the UK.
“Alongside teaching the junior doctors the knowledge and skills they need, we can also model and teach them to be surgeons who are compassionate towards those they treat.”
By Kerry Allan
SIM Stories videos
In September 2022, a team from SIM Stories visited Mandritsara to spotlight the work God is doing there in videos and interviews.
Visit www.mandritsara.org.uk/mandritsara to learn more about God’s faithfulness over the past 28 years
- Give thanks for the wonderful opportunity this rural mission hospital has to bring good news to people as it provides quality, compassionate care.
- For the PAACS programme to bring glory to God as the young Malagasy doctors are trained and discipled.
- For more medical doctors to join the team in Mandritsara.