An overdue post from my trip to the regional referral hospital in Lira
The government run hospital in Lira serves ten districts in Uganda. There is no transportation to the hospital. Reaching the hospital is just the first hurdle to overcome for medical care, finding a doctor is the next obstacle. As of 2010, the doctor patient ratio in Uganda was 1:24,725. Ugandan physicians have repeatedly been sent abroad to other countries increasing this ratio even more. If an individual is able to reach a hospital with a trained physician, they must then obtain enough money to pay for the medical services they require, and hope that the hospital has the necessary medical supplies in stock.
The woman’s reception ward is a long room that looks robbed of supplies. There are no mosquito nets and equipment is scarcely scattered about between two rows of beds and mattresses. The mattresses are pieces of foam that were once, maybe 20 years ago, covered in a brown leathery bag, which are now worn and aged. They have cracked like the soles of feet, tired from use. When an individual arrives they must bring their own sheets. They are required to bring their own food and water as well. Having a family member in the hospital becomes a full time job for the family. The patient charts are held together inside one colored piece of construction paper. Currently, the hospital is out of gloves. Patients have to supply their own for exams conducted by the doctors and nurses. Medical tests are often conducted in separate buildings, and they must be paid for before the service is provided.
Even with the dreary outlook, the visitors and staff continuously erupt in laughter. They make jokes, sometimes very dark jokes, but it keeps the spirits high and makes it possible to almost forget one is in a hospital. We sit on a bed next to a woman who appears to be the hospital gossip. She knows everyone and everything, leaving me to ponder how long her daughter has been in the reception area of the hospital, providing time for her mom to gather this wealth of knowledge.
A woman in the far bed is propped upright between the legs of her daughter. From afar, the mom looks to be a young child. The symbolism is heartbreakingly beautiful; the strong, tall daughter physically supporting her frail, vanishing mother.