Mombasa Hospital, the 128-year-old facility with a fascinating history

Until the recent fire that broke into the facility and broke headlines majority of watu wa bara had probably never heard of Mombasa Hospital one of the oldest biggest medical institutions in the region. 

The History of the Mombasa Hospital begins in 1891 when the Imperial British East Africa Company, which had been granted its charter from Queen Victoria only three years earlier, received a substantial donation to build a Hospital.They chose to name it the English Hospital and they gave the running of it to the Holy Ghost Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church.  A two storey bungalow was adapted for use as a hospital with accommodation for about 12 patients.

The original Mombasa Hospital building, dating back to 1891, has benefited from conservation and is now a National monument.

1895 – The newly established East African Protectorate took over the Imperial British East Africa Company and with it the Hospital which catered for a population of 300 Europeans.

1897- Dr. W.H. McDonald (a former employee of the company) was appointed Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital.3 Sisters arrived from France to run the Hospital.

1903 – Mombasa’s first motor car was off-loaded at the old port in December, 1903.Motor cars remained uncommon sight in town until the outbreak of war in 1914.Until then most patients who were unable to walk were brought to the Hospital by means of hand pushed trolleys.

1907 – The British transferred the capital of East African Protectorate from Mombasa to Nairobi.

1908 – The British Administration opened the Native Civil Hospital in Makadara to cater for non-European patients in Mombasa.

1909 – The Mombasa Electric Light & Power Company was founded in 1909

1910 – The Hospital was enabled to obtain electric power, with the cable being suspended from palm trees.

1912 – There was no provision for maternity patients until 1912 when the first steps were taken to meet this need. A site was eventually chosen which overlooked the newly established Mombasa Golf Course. The nursing home had 3 rooms, which were often to be used as an overflow from the hospital.

1920 –The East African Protectorate became Kenya Colony and Protectorate.

1921 – The English Hospital changed its name to the European Hospital. It had 12 beds and 4 nurses. Mr. Norman Jewell, a Surgeon, became Senior Medical Officer.

– An operating theatre was built during his time but not finished when he left in 1925.  He had to perform operations on the verandah, and the chief difficulty was to keep the patient under chloroform owing to the wind blowing the chloroform away rapidly.

1927 – The first refrigerator arrived

1935 – It was not until 1935 that there was piped hot water

1937 – The Malaria survey for Mombasa estimated that the town’s European population was 1,316, a considerable increase on forty years previously (300).

1940 – Ambulance acquired.  Served both the European and Native Civil Hospital.

1944 – In 1944 the Government decided that it would have to concentrate its financial resources on medical facilities for the African community and that the European and Asian communities would have to fend for themselves.Associations were formed to take over responsibility for the non-African Hospitals.

1947 – The Mombasa and Coast European Hospital Association was formed in 1947 and assumed responsibility for the Hospital.

1948 – Building of the Hospital began before the end of 1948 from Stg. £ 35,000 bequeathed by Mr. Samuel Cohen, the contractor for the Kenya – Uganda Railway and a matching grant from the Government plus Stg. £ 18000 realized  from the sale of the nursing home. 

1950 – Hospital building with 70 beds was opened on 20th May, 1950 by Sir Charles Mortimer, Commissioner of Lands and the first Matron was Miss Jane Warden.  She was Matron for 15 years.

                                   PART OF MOMBASA HOSPITAL

1951 – The Mombasa and Coast European Hospital Association was incorporated under the Companies Act but the company changed its name in 1964 to the Mombasa Hospital Association and it continues to be called by this name to the present day.

1950 – 1952 –Temporary accommodation provided for nurses at Government House. Sister’s mess erected at Government expense on following directive by the Governor, Sir Philip Mitchell

1960 – Maternity ward (Katherine Bibby Wing) was built in 1960 (now housing Radiology, HDU and Renal Units) from a most generous donation by Mrs. Bibby.

1962 – In 1962, in recognition of Mrs. Bibby’s munificence, the Mombasa and Coast European Hospital was renamed the Katherine Bibby Hospital.  Mrs. Bibby died in 1970 in a Durban Nursing home.

1980 – By the time Kenya became Independent on 12th December, 1963, any racial barriers that remained form the colonial past had been removed but in many quarters there existed the belief that the Katherine Bibby catered mainly for the Europeans.  In 1980, as part of the campaign to correct this misapprehension the name changed to The Mombasa Hospital.