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Monday, June 29, 2009

Dr. Martin

So, as you may or may not know, I am teaching some basic first aid skills in the communties that we are doing work in. So prior to heading up to these communities to deliver my aforementioned stellar first aid course, I thought it would be best to visit the local health care center and find out a few things first.

The first thing I wanted to know was, what problems the Doctor at the health care center encounters most often. Doctor Martin explained to me that the most common problems that he sees are burns, fevers, infant poisoning and infections. As Dr.Martin and I talked we both felt that we could greatly reduce the risk of these injuries through teaching a little prevention to the families of these communites. We also knew that we could reduce the severity of these injuries by teaching a little basic first aid. So that was great, I now had knowledge of the main problems seen at the health care center and I had a clear plan of how I could help in this situation.

The second thing that I wanted to find out was what Emergency Services are provided to the people in the communities, at what cost the services are provided and what resources are available to them. Here is where I learned alot about the challenges the health care system faces and how the system runs. It is not pretty.

I found out that although the Health Center has two ambulances, they only use one because they can't afford to pay two drivers. It wouldn't matter though if they had 10 ambulances because to use an ambulance comes with a cost. The cost is roughly 30,000 shillings (about 15 cdn dollars) and most families can't afford such a cost.

I then discovered that when someone gets sick or becomes injured one of two things typically happens. The first (and most common) is that someone from the family of the sick or injured person will bike down to the health care center and ask the Doctor what is the best way to care for the sick or injured person. Once they have the advice they were looking for they will bike back up to the community to administer the care and medicine as described. As you can imagine, this is not the desired practice to treat someone who is in need of medical care but due to financial restraints these families face, this is usually the only option they have.

The second solution to help someone who is seriously injured and needs immediate medical attention is to put this person into a "taxi" and send them to the hospital that way. This is done because sending someone in a taxi (that generally has 9 or 10 other people in it) will only cost a family about $2000 shillings and this is all they can afford. Again, not a desired medical practice but many times this is what needs to be done.

Doctor Martin then explained that although the government "provides" the Health Care Center with materials, medications and resources every 3 months, the supplies recieved are never enough and he often runs out of medication and basic medical resources about 6 weeks before the next installement arrives. What this means is that sometimes for 6 weeks at a time, the health care center has to turn patients away unless they bring their own supplies (like surgical gloves!), as they can't properly care for them. This means that the patients have to head into Mbarara to the larger hospital at a greater cost to their family.

A very interesting look into local health care. Finding out what we did about the health care system and its lack of resources, it is our hope that Ainembabazi will be able to team up with Doctor Martin to implement a community health outreach program that will see the Doc heading up to the communties one time per month to better serve the people of these rural areas. We (Ainembabazi) will also be providing each community with a First Aid Kit and some basic knowledge that will hopefully reduce the number of times families need to go see Dr. Martin.

I believe now, more than ever, that health care is a basic human right that everyone should have access to. Unfortunately, I have also discovered that sometimes money is the only way to ensure that you get your basic human rights. That kind of sucks.

1 comment:

  1. That does suck! I hate that the "haves" continue to get and the "have nots" continue to lose out! Glad you guys are there, making a difference!