Sunday, September 9, 2012

Life in a local hospital

The local hospital and its wings
This year our HOPE Centre is located within an actual Hospital unit. We were given parts of the ground floor of one wing to renovate it and create bed space for 60 people - 30 patients on beds and 30 caregivers who sleep under the beds on mattresses. Franck, my boss and his team from Benin has been working on it for several weeks now and our wing really looks stunning. It's such a striking difference from the wings around us or the second floor above us.

As our day-workers do some last minute cleaning before we receive patients, we sit down outside to have our weekly team meeting. Since the ship arrived the patients have seen many white people (yes, I could have written Westerners, please don't read more into my sentence than what it is. I simply pointed out the fact that our skin colour is different), but they still stop and stare at us - hopefully the sensation will be over soon.

I am about to speak when the door next to us swung open and they pushed out a bed with a patient on it. She is still sleeping and that's when I realize it: one of the ORs is just next door to us. They debate for a while what to do with her, then they lift up the bed and carry it up on the steep staircase (see photo). Above us I see vultures everywhere.

It must be noon as I can see people in the opposite wing are getting ready for the Dhuhr - noon prayer time for Muslims. Men come to the corridors, put down their rugs and bow down next to each other in a very organised manner. A few meters behind them ladies do the same. This solemn moment is broken when a bunch of street dogs scare the kids who walk in the courtyard. They run away shouting, while carrying heavy looking boxes on their heads - as it turns out they are bringing in food items for the patients to purchase, that is if they can afford to buy anything. If I didn't know better, I'd never have guessed that this is a hospital!

Our Team: Franck from Benin, Ryan from South Africa, Barry & Cheryl from UK and me
Franck was telling us horror stories, how the hospital was before his team started the renovation. Medical and surgical waste was quite literally 'just thrown out of the building' in open bags... Sometimes without the bags... More often than not these bags contained bloody rags and human tissue from the surgeries and were just put out onto the corridor - never mind the big trash container sitting 50 m away... empty. :(

Is it any surprise that this place is the vultures' favourite gathering place?

This lady is sleeping in front of the ward door outside, on the floor.
As we close our meeting the sun is out again after a quick and quiet shower. A boy is sent to the courtyard to collect the hospital sheets that are 'drying' on the ground. I can smell them as he walks past me - they STINK! Forget the 'fresh rain'smell from TV ads. These sheets are supposed to be clean and will be put on the hospital beds receiving the next patient straight form the OR with still open wounds and I don't even want to think about his/her chances of getting any infection from these clean sheets. No wonder Guineans don't like hospitals; one of them said that ''We don't go to hospitals, because that's where people die". Can you blame them for believing that???

This dumpster site is only 500 meters away form the hospital on the beach road... 

No comments: