Monday, August 27, 2007

on the tenwek wards

I very much enjoyed the little community that sprung up between those of us staying in the Guesthouse at Tenwek. There were about eight of us who had lunch together regularly. We were a fairly international bunch, with two medical students from Germany, one from Northern Ireland and the rest of us from various U.S. states (Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, and Tennessee). Most of those folks are at Tenwek for a few months (three to four months) while one is there for a year.

Since my assigned stories for my Tenwek time didn’t really take me into the actual hospital, it was nice to talk with these doctor and med student friends over meals to learn about the hospital experience. In summary: working here is challenging.

Though they don’t work more hours than they would in the States, the toll of the hours is greater. They see many more deaths here than they do in the U.S. or Europe, so the emotional toll is much greater. One person said that he’d seen more deaths in two weeks at Tenwek than he had in three years of practice in the States. Though Tenwek is a good hospital, doctors still have fewer tools at their disposal than they’re used to. They said it’s hard knowing that some of the patients would have been saved if they had been in the U.S., if they had access to other medical treatments and tests.

Another reason for the large numbers of deaths at the hospital is that people don’t like to come to the hospital because they believe coming to the hospital is almost a death sentence in itself. So many people who go to the hospital die. Because of this perception, people don’t come until their illnesses are so advanced there’s no other option. By that point, there’s often little doctors can do to reverse the diseases. It’s a vicious circle.

Finances are another factor keeping people away from hospitals. Some form of health insurance is available here now, but I haven’t yet really heard anything about how it works or what it costs. One of my Tenwek friends described a conversation he had while walking alongside a man on the road near the hospital. The man was struggling to decide between spending money for his sick child’s care and spending money for the school fees for his healthy child. If the healthy child goes through school, he is much more likely to get a good job and be able to help care for his sibling. If the money was spent to help the sick child now, the healthy child might lose the opportunity to get an education and help improve the prospects of his entire family. Weighty decisions, indeed.

1 comment:

Koecharles said...

Your stories, or rather facts about Kenya(Tenwek specifically) are getting more and more interesting as I read through your blog.

One or two things I have learnt is that you always call a spade a spade. Not a big spoon! And that some things which are normal to us here are very strange to you!

Indeed 'a stranger wonders alone in a foreign city'(Japanese proverb)

I happen to be a member of the community served by Tenwek Hospital,and it has always been my prayer that one day the community wakes up and embrace education.

I hope you always inspire one or two wherever you go. By so doing, you will have lit the lamp and placed it on the table. God bless you all!