Ilesha Hospital, in western Nigeria, was the first Methodist hospital in Africa and Dr John Stephens, who opened it in 1912, the first doctor from the MMS anywhere on the continent. Prior to 1912 there were only eight hospitals in the whole of Nigeria. The project was supported by the Wesley Guild and the location was chosen because the local king was a Christian, the church there was strong, and the town had better transport links than most. Several times the embryonic hospital had to close for lack of funds or staff, but a more reliable service developed thanks especially to Stella Liony, a black British nurse, who pioneered female nurse training in Nigeria.
The hospital was relocated and greatly enlarged in 1954. It benefited from the continuity provided by several long-serving missionaries, notably Sister Elsie Ludlow 1929-1960 and Dr. Andrew Pearson, medical superintendent 1953-1975. Under the pioneering work of the paediatrician Dr. David Morley (1923-2009) from 1956 to1961 Ilesha became internationally renowned for its research into patterns of child health and mortality. The success of its Under Fives Welfare Clinic was widely copied. The Guild’s continuing support supplied only a fraction of the running costs; at times when government grants fell into arrears the survival of the hospital was precarious. But with significant co-funding from ICCO, a Dutch Christian aid organisation, it was again expanded in 1972, with 197 beds and around 230 staff. In 1975 the management of the hospital was taken over by the Western State Health Council and in 1976 by the Federal Government, but it continued to be known as the Wesley Guild Hospital.
See also Medical missions.