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Swiss patient sets up hospital project in Kenya

Most Kenyans cannot afford treatment for common illnesses like Aids, tuberculosis and malaria


A Swiss man battling a debilitating illness has managed to arrange the construction of a hospital in Kenya.

Stephan Holderegger, who has spent a lifetime battling cystic fibrosis, says the new hospital will provide medical care free of charge to the poorest patients, with others paying only a minimal admission charge.

The Rhine Valley hospital, named after Holderegger's birthplace in Switzerland, will be built in the Kasambara-Gilgil region, some 150km north-west of Nairobi, at a projected cost of SFr1.8 million. It will be especially geared to providing treatment for patients suffering from Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, particularly children.

"There's a lot of poverty in this region and the vast majority of people cannot afford medical treatment, "Holderegger told swissinfo. "People tell me that the Kenyan government has been making promises to build a hospital for the past 15 years. There's still no sign of it. So they're hugely grateful that finally we're doing something to help."

The groundwork for the hospital, such as laying down water pipes, has already begun, says Holdregger, and the hospital is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2004.

A new life

Holderegger, who has lived in Kenya for more than 30 years, says the motivation for setting-up the hospital project came from surviving a life-saving lung transplant operation in 1999.

"I feel as if I've been reborn," says Holderegger. "I was so lucky to have such good medical attention and I feel that I need to do something really worthwhile with my new life."

The hospital complex will include two operating theatres, an X-ray room and more than 150 beds. Holderegger said he hopes two ambulances will be donated for use in the area near the hospital.

"It's very important we operate this ambulance service - it'll make our services much more valuable and efficient," says Holderegger.

Beauty queen

Much of the funding for the hospital has already been raised through private sponsorship, including from the Swiss beach-volleyball duo, Paul and Martin Lagica. Personalities such as singer and former Miss Switzerland, Paloma Würth, are also helping to raise the profile of the project.

The hospital will rely on ongoing contributions and sponsorship for its operating funds. Some of the medicinal supplies will donated by the African flying doctors' service, AMREF.

by Vanessa Mock

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