Kalene Mission Hospital

Dr. Jef Mortelmans

1944 - 2007

Dr. Jef and Lutgarde
Dr. Jef and Lutgarde (Click for larger image)

Dr Jef was born 9 April 1944, and died suddenly following a myocardial infarction on 19 March 2007. Jef married Lutgarde in 1973, and after working in the Congo for many years they came to Kalene Hospital in 1996. Jeff was responsible for maintaining the medical service for a number of years, and was joined by Dr Vivian Davies in 2002.

Dr Jef was loved and respected by all his colleagues, patients and by the people of the community. His humility, clinical skills, patient manner, sense of humour and commitment to the patients he cared for uniquely equipped him to work in an African hospital

He led a quiet life; very humble, but very effective. He enjoyed his work, his books, his walks, his DVD’s, and making puzzles. He also enjoyed a challenging game of Chess and Scrabble. Though the hospital kept him very busy, he liked his routine of daily walks down the airstrip every evening. We would see him walking slowly with his hands behind his back while Lutgarde raced ahead of him, for her power walks. On Sunday mornings, when he wasn’t on call, he went for a longer walk with Lutgarde, greeting friends along the way and giving out sweets to the children

He was committed to caring for his patients He never left Kalene except to go to the clinics every Wednesday. He enjoyed this part of the week and frequently stopped on the way to see some of his patients in their homes. Jef never hesitated to come to the hospital when called for an emergency. His many years of experience gave him an uncanny clinical acumen for diagnosing patient’s problems. With a shortage of diagnostic equipment, his fingers were often his “diagnostic tools”, often confirming the problem just by palpating the area in trouble. He and Dr Viv were more than co workers, they were companions and friends and shared the responsibilities well at the hospital. Jeff also worked well with, listened to and was respected by all the other clinical staff at the hospital. He enjoyed visits from specialist teams [orthopedic surgeon, plastic surgeon and the eye team] and Jef would be right in there helping and learning from them.

Dr. Jef and Lutgarde
(Click for larger image)

Dr Viv Davies says of his time working with Dr Jef:
During the 5 years that we worked together, we never exchanged any harsh words. We worked in harmony, even sharing the same pair of operating boots for more than a year! I greatly respected Dr. Jef’s clinical opinions, that were based on years of experience. He always amused me with his healthy skepticism regarding modern technology, but his basic clinical methods were invariably correct. He was always impeccably dressed, "But it is due to my wife" he would always add. If I had a problem in the hospital, he would always help immediately. I have lost a friend whose medical skills reached out to more than you may imagine.

Dr Jef loved to tell of stories of his time at home in Belgium. Though he loved his work, he always looked forward to the time he would be spending at home with his family, friends and his beautiful ocean. Dr Jef will be greatly missed by his wife Lutgarde, two children Peter and Natalie and his grandchild Noah. Kalene has lost a good friend and colleague.