Tuesday 22 Jan 2019


Church of Scotland Missionaries and Kikuyu evangelists established a mission on the southern slopes of Tumutumu Hill in 1908. Rev. H. E. Scott, the head of the Kikuyu mission station, and Dr. John Arthur, a newly arrived missionary doctor, traveled to Mathira in July 1908. Tumutumu Hill was chosen with the aid of the district commissioner of Nyeri district as an ideal meeting place.

Medical work at Tumutumu was commenced in 1909 by a "dispenser" from the Kikuyu mission named Kitoto. Gathu wa Kihurunjo, also from Kikuyu, came later to replace Kitoto. Dr. Horace Philp from the Church of Scotland arrived in April 1910 to develop the medical work further. Philp’s first medical building was the bedroom of the grass hut. shared. This served as a dispensary.

Outpatient consultations were conducted outdoors with crowd of interested spectators watching. Dr. Philp saw 3446 outpatients in his first nine months. The first "inpatient" at Tumutumu was a young man called Karona who had yaws. He built his own hut on the mission site in order to receive "inpatient" care!

In 1911 a temporary ward of poles and thatch was built large enough to contain eight beds. A better dispensary for the storage of drugs was also completed. This wood and iron structure also served as an examination room and operating theatre. The first ward had to be destroyed when a patient died in it. Other patients then refused to enter the building fearing the "thahu" caused by the dead body. Subsequently a separate "thahu" ward was built where the dying could pass on in peace without disrupting the care of the living.

By 1912 Philp's annual report described 83 in patients and 8482 outpatients treated. Many of the outpatients were seen on mobile clinic visits to nearby markets. Inpatients then were nursed in one of two mud-and-wattle buildings each big enough for 12 patients. At that time Dr. Philp appealed for funds to build a permanent hospital. In March 1913 a lady calling herself " A Scotch sympathiser" donated a cheque for £300. This money was used to build a corrugated iron building which was opened on 25th March 1914.

This building initially housed an outpatient department, two small wards and an operating theatre. Over the last 95 years the building has served variously as a male ward, a staff hostel, a paediatric ward, a community health department, a chapel, and as a female surgical ward. The Mt. Kenya ward finally replaced this historic building.

Like all Church of Scotland activities in Kenya, Tumutumu Hospital was handed over to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in 1956. Tumutumu is now a large, busy hospital that no-one could have dreamed of 100 years ago.

University of Nairobi