Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Health Care Experience in a Developing Coutnry

I woke up about 6:30am to my usual morning relief only to find, immediately following, I needed to repeat, which is unusual.
Got a ride into town, and queued up for the clinic about 8:00am and waited till 9:00am when they opened. All the HIV/AIDS posters occupied my thoughts while I waited to sign in. The waiting room was the typical waiting room. A receptionist typing away at a computer and calling on patients as a friend or family goes up to provide information and to translate the pain into words if somehow that would alleviate the patient’s symptoms. A television that played an infomercial that tried to convince its viewers that their pill was the pill to make them lose weight, feel good about themselves, get the woman of their dreams and feel young again. Something that no one in that room was remotely concerned about.
It was only R200 which is about 35 US Dollars which included any medication. Just as Paulo Coelho’s book “Veronica Decides to Die” was inspiring me to brainstorm my own novel, I was called in. The building was quite open. Windows let in the clouded sky and the doors allowed for the sick to get fresh air.
I was led to the doctor’s office where I was examined. In the States, the term “going to the doctor’s office” means you sit in a waiting room only to be called to sit in another room where someone checks your vitals and takes down your symptoms. Then finally the doctor’s Registered Nurse comes in to make the final call on your health, whilst the doctor is in the his “office”, of which you never end up seeing, doing the one thing that we know for certain, making money.
I sat next to his desk where he had charts, papers, stethoscope and files all about. He even had an exam bed, he did it all in his office and he was the only one that I had seen.
He walked me to the restroom in his office where on the side was one of those fabric partitions that reminded me of the TV show M*A*S*H*where all the patients were divided with. Inside the bathroom were some plastic bottles, toilet paper and a bar of soap. He rinsed out a plastic 4 cup measuring cup, kind of like the one I used last week when I baked for the students, and said “go ahead and just go in here.”
There was water still left in the cup before I had used it and there was no “sanitary napkin” to do a clean front to back sweep. The cup was so big that I could not actually squat over the toilet. So there I was standing in the doctor’s office bathroom, the window providing me the clouded light and with a measuring cup between my legs. It was the first time that I had wished someone was with me in a bathroom.
When I came out and let him know I was done, he dipped a strip into the urine and then, without gloves, poured and rinsed the measuring cup out.
Within a few minutes, my urinary tract infection was diagnosed. I was send out of his office, with just my weight taken and a prescription that was waiting for me in the next room. I headed back up the hill about 9:30 am by foot with a new sense of what health care is like in the majority of the world, how completely pampered I am of my own health care and how hard it is for me to get treatment in my own country. I would take a plastic measuring cup in exchange for an antibiotic any day.

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