Post #2

Li4

Over 2 weeks in now, and I feel like I have travelled through different universes each time I switch rotation to a different ward. Every ward is run differently, and the rapport between doctors, nurses, patients, and medical students vary greatly in each place. In each area though, I've seen patients who were surrounded by family, seen patients who were completely alone, and too often, have heard stories that I wish were untrue.

The one common factor throughout this hospital is the amount of people. At each hospital bed, two patients will lie with each other's feet at the other's head level, family members will perch on the edges, and crowds of medical students, nutritionists, nurses, clinical officers, and consultants will be milling about. Imagine trying to see the stage from a crowd at a music concert and you can start to imagine how I feel during rounds. However, I've come to learn that this crowding is actually a very good thing.

Last week, the nurse's strike left the wards with empty hospital beds; something I had never seen before until now. As in every hospital, there is no functioning without the nurses, so patients who does not absolutely need to be in the hospital have been discharged. This includes patients who could have used more follow-up or were not truly ready to leave. For those left on the wards, it is perhaps even worse. Without nurses to change bedpans and wound dressings, administer drugs, or run labs, patients are uncared for, and the extent of human suffering present on the wards is blatant.

The strike has gone on for a full week now, and the doctors have threatened to strike as well. If this happens, the hospital will be shut down, and every patient who cannot afford healthcare at private clinics (most of them) will be sent home, for better or for worse.

So why would healthcare workers, supposedly dedicated to the saving of human lives, walk away from patients who depend on them? According to Vincent, a Kenyan pharmacy student, being employed at a public hospital can involve months without pay. In contrast to our 'pay-days' that we have in the States, receiving salary here is hoped for and not expected. In fact, the doctor's strike that took place just last Jan lasted for over 100 days because doctors had not been paid for 5 months, and it took 100 days for the physicians to come to an agreement with the government.

100 days.

Now while I'm sure there are many sides to this situation, the one unquestionable fact is that patients suffer. Many conversations have been had amongst all the Westerners here about whether or not we would strike if we were in the shoes of the doctors and nurses here. On the one hand, patients need to be helped and the healthcare workers hold the key to this. On the other hand, how can the nurses and doctors of the hospital help strangers when they don't even have money to feed their own families? Over the 3 weeks I've been here so far, I've learned that Kenya is a land of gray. There is no right or wrong, no hero or villain. It is simply a question of life and how one can make it to the next day.

Regardless of our conclusions though, we all know that we would never be in a situation quite like this, and that is our privilege as members of a first-world nation. For now, there is little we can do but hope that the government and the healthcare staff can come to an agreement soon this week, and that proper healthcare and general life-saving can restart once more.

 

Li5 Li6

Posted at 03:55

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