Sunday, February 5, 2012

Africa: First Weekend

Since there are so many patients waiting it's decided that we'll work a normal day on Saturday.  This is fine by us, we're here to work.  The staff however, like staff anywhere, is less happy.  I repeatedly get asked whether or not today will be a half day, being just an assistant myself I'm happy to refer anyone that asks to the doctors.

This does make me wonder about how the staff is getting paid.  I get the sense they aren't volunteers but given how cash poor the area is I am somewhat surprised the staff isn't eager to receive additional pay.  I feel it is too rude to ever ask, but my suspicion is that the staff receives a fixed amount for the two weeks that we're here.

We are a little short staffed on Saturday since the usual interpreter for the exam room I'm working in is off since she is a Seventh Day Adventist and doesn't work on the Sabbath.  This means that in addition to my usual note-taking I am also writing in the log book since she is also normally in charge of that.  Every patient seen has some basic information, such as their name, where they come from, and the diagnosis and treatment administered taken down.  I don't really know how often this log book gets used, but at least the records are being kept.

Mona, the Clinic's nurse practitioner, in one of the exam rooms.  I sit at the small table there most days taking notes.  You can also see the logbook resting on the table.

Every patient also has a chart.  However, these charts frequently get lost.  They are stored next door at the mission hospital, we would like to store them at the clinic so that we have control but apparently government regulations require them to be stored there.  The charts themselves are just small notebooks that appear to have originally been shipped over as school exercise books.  I don't ask about their origin, they're being put to good use here, but it's likely an example of how third world countries put donor goods to uses not originally intended.  It also means that I can read basic facts about Zambia that are printed on the inside covers of the book in between patients.  I learn little nuggets of information like the fact that Zambia has 72 languages.

We do have one interesting encounter.  A local farmer, who is also a major donor to the clinic and the first white patient we have had, is shown in by the clinic director.  Apparently, he doesn't have to wait in line.  Rather than a chart we are given his information on a slip of paper.  I'm uncertain, but I make the assumption this means this appointment is off-book, it doesn't go in the log.  The man is apparently also involved in some other philanthropic projects around the area, I believe I am told he also runs an orphanage (though I may be confusing him with someone else).  Unfortunately we aren't able to do much for his condition.

After work, we go out for a night on the town.  We walk over to a nearby bar where we drink the two Zambian beers, Mosi and Castle.  They are 5000 quacha a piece, which works out to a dollar.  The first bar we go to, Trekkers, closes early so we go across the street to the Elite bar.  This bar is a bit livelier, a few of the patrons give my girlfriend and I Tonga dancing lessons.  It's a pretty good time, the bar area itself is very small and crowded but it has a covered porch area that also serves as a dance floor.

Sunday we spend catching up on sleep lost due to jet lag.  I get quite a bit of reading done and the day is otherwise uneventful.

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