Initially working from the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa, Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin refined the surgical technique to repair obstetric fistula injuries, while continuing to treat a broad range of obstetric cases. Within the first three years, Reg and Catherine had operated on 300 fistula patients.
As news of a cure spread, many more patients came seeking treatment. To cater for the demand Catherine and Reg began fundraising and opened the now world-renowned Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974.
In addition to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Catherine went on to establish five regional fistula hospitals throughout Ethiopia to ensure access for women in remote areas. All six Hamlin fistula hospitals also provide a birthing facility where former patients can return for safe cesarean delivery, free of charge, thanks to generous donors.
Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is fully staffed by over 550 Ethiopians transforming maternal healthcare for women across Ethiopia.
Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is the main fistula hospital located in the capital Addis Ababa, in the centre of Ethiopia. Built in 1974, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has three wards, a large operating theatre, specialist clinics including a physiotherapy department, urodynamic and stoma clinic, pharmacy and pathology services. The hospital has a 120-bed capacity.
Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital was opened in February 2006. Strategically located in Mekele, in the northern fringe of Ethiopia, the hospital also caters to patients from the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions. Mekele Fistula Hospital’s dedicated health officer’s primary responsibility is to locate fistula patients in inaccessible parts of Tigray and to promote health education to prevent fistulas from occurring.
Located to the south of Addis Ababa, Hamlin’s Yirgalem Fistula Hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) since its establishment in 2006. The staff at Yirgalem were taught at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and have a particular commitment to caring for impoverished women in the Sidoma zone of SNNPR.
Hamlin’s Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital, located in the capital of the Amhara region, is approximately 540km north-west of Addis Ababa. Opened in 2007, the hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Amhara region and reintegrated the majority of them back into their communities. Many of the staff at Bahir Dar are former patients who were trained by Hamlin’s senior doctors, including Catherine.
In 2008, Catherine opened Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s fourth regional fistula hospital in Harar. Strategically located as Hamlin’s easternmost hospital, Harar is approximately 500km east of Addis Ababa. The Public Health Officer at Hamlin’s Harar Fistula Hospital works in Harar and the neighbouring regions to raise awareness of fistula.
Hamlin’s Metu Fistula Hospital was opened in 2010. Metu is situated along the Sor River, 600km southwest of Addis Ababa, in the Oromia region. The Metu hospital is of great importance in Oromia, where there is limited access to health facilities for its population of over 35 million people. The hospital also employs numerous teachers to teach literacy, provide health education and handicrafts training to fistula patients.