"Living a truly ethical life, putting the needs of others first, and providing for their happiness has tremendous implications for society." -Dalai Lama

"Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us." -Sargent Shriver

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hospital Time

So today I had my first true experience with the healthcare system in Tanzania.  A student at a Claire's school collapsed, had a seizure, and was unconscious for about an hour.  We are thinking this may be due to cerebral Malaria.  After this occurrence, his friend held him on the back of a motorcycle and they admitted him to the Newala Hospital.  When they arrived, there were no doctors and no real nurses.  Eliezar, a teacher from Kiuta, was carrying him until they finally admitted the boy.  Once admitted, a really shocker happened.  The hospital had no supplies.  This is not just an exaggeration.  All the hospital has is beds, sheets, and mosquito nets.  Claire had to go to the duka la dawa, pharmacy, and buy IV lines, needles, and medication.  Once every thing had been bought, the staff took about 20 minutes to get the IV in him arm.  Claire gave me a call once they had settled and I made my way that way, buying bananas, because get this: the hospital does not feed the patients.   In fact, they do nothing except administer the drugs that you buy yourself.  It depends on the patient's friends and families to feed, take to the bathroom, and clean the patient.  When asked what happens if someone is without family, the response was that they die.  That just goes to emphasize how much people rely on family in the Tanzanian culture.  They share everything: food, money, success, and failure.  In fact, if one person has any success, it falls on them to support the rest of their family.  As great as it is to be close to family and depend upon one another, I can't help thinking that this is a contributor to many of the problems in this country.  I know a guy who is extremely smart and an amazing person.  He is the oldest child and his father has passed away.  Because of this, after A-Level schooling (the equivalent of Junior College), he got his teaching certificate instead of moving on to University so that he could make money and help his younger siblings finish schooling.  It is great for the education system that they got such a remarkable person, but he has so much potential to do much more good for this country.  But, back to the hospital; after the IV was put in, he started to rouse.  After about an hour, he was even able to talk, with difficulty, and drink water and eat some food.  I can only hope that his progress continues.  This trip to the hospital got me thinking about what can be done to improve the overall health care system in Tanzania.  I think really, accountability needs to be addressed first.  I was told that whenever the government comes to inspect, people are fired because they just don't show up to work.  This still does not seem to improve the dependability of the staff though.  Once this has been addressed, then other logistics can be improved, like separating people with TB or contagious diseased, possibly like the man in the corner of the building we were in coughing up blood, from the other patients with already compromised immune systems.  Overall, the entire experience was extremely eye opening and I now understand why the Tanzanian citizens, at least around my area, seem to distrust medical care and tend to opt for solutions provided by witch doctors and superstition.  

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