Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, our Executive Director, is in Africa visiting hospitals in Tanzania and Uganda to learn about the health care systems in these countries. To the extent she can (internet is spotty) she is sending us updates and dispatches. Below is her first:
Friday, 5:30 am
Yesterday we visited SAMDDH, a very large hospital with more than 300 beds and were there during visiting hours, so it was bustling. There are seven doctors, only half of whom are there full time, and a large nursing and support staff who take extraordinary interest and care of their charges. We saw the TB and HIV clinic where rapid testing is done, and the wards where those who are ill are cared for. The only air conditioning in the sprawling complex is in the testing laboratory, which is sparsely appointed, and the building with the two operating rooms, which to my untrained eye appeared to have very modest technology. This is one of the best hospitals in the region, and even though it is only supposed to treat people from a specific catchment area, patients come from well beyond those boarders to be cared for at this facility.
About two-thirds of the beds in the maternity ward were full with women in various stages of labor and delivery. Those who had recently delivered were resting with their newborns and those who were in labor kept to themselves, and it was challenging as visiting westerners not to offer comfort. Men are not allowed in these rooms.
The hospital campus includes a nursing school and we were shown around by the head teacher who is also a nurse. We visited classrooms and their dorms, and there appeared to be a difference between the male dorms (LOUD music and clothes strewn about their rooms) and the female dorms (no noise, beds made), but otherwise they are in classes together. One class was learning about blood typing.
While this is a remarkably well-appointed and successful hospital in this region, to Western eyes the facility was making do with very old or modest equipment.
The single fact that has brought me up short is that the hospital runs out of water – regularly. When this happens surgeries are suspended, patients have limited access to water in the wards, I don’t know how people take their pills, particularly those on advanced regimens that require very large pills. Imagine a hospital without water!
More to follow.
–Amy Whitcomb Slemmer