That’s how I had heard the local hospital here in Jean Rabel being described and having lived here now for a whole month I wasn’t expecting anything plush when it came to visit the hospital.
However, I was not prepared for what I experienced. We walked through the waiting area of what seemed to be the outpatients department to get to where inpatients were staying, as we were visiting a specific patient who had been admitted 2 days ago with malnutrition.
Our patient was a 4 year old boy from another area about a half-hour’s drive away who had attended our outreach mobile clinic. He didn’t look too bad, having been in hospital a couple of days now. He was out of bed and happy to chat with us. His mother was staying at the hospital with him and she had her youngest child with her, a 5 month old baby who she was breast-feeding.
This little boy didn’t look so good, he was very small for his age and we wondered if he was getting enough food and were hoping he was being built up a little during his hospital stay.
In the small room where this family were being treated there were 2 or 3 other beds and a rusty cot, not in use.
It was dark and dreary as there was only one small window in the corner and no light on. Everything seemed dark and dirty, the beds, the floor, everywhere.
If you are admitted to this hospital for treatment, you must bring your own mattress and bed covers with you, as the hospital doesn’t supply these. You also must bring in your own food, or you don’t eat!
Just inside the door was another young boy of about 5 or 6 who was lying on the bed sleeping; he had a number of drips attached to him and some of his family were visiting him. They had a bag of food stashed under the bed. It was difficult enough to see all around as it was so dark! Two female doctors appeared and spoke with Sr. Naza about ‘our patient’. Sr. Naza offered the boys’ mother a box of vitamins she had purchased for her in the chemist opposite the hospital.
After visiting, Sr. Naza showed me the rest of the hospital. There was not a light to be seen anywhere so everywhere was dark and looked somewhat drab, dreary and dull.
There was a kind of outdoor corridor which gave some light into parts of the hospital but that was the only light I saw during my visit. Sr. Naza showed me a small nook where the Religious of Jesus and Mary have supplied batteries to supply electricity to the emergency department. Without these and up until the batteries arrived, there was no electricity there.
Next to ‘our patients’ room was another room/ward with a few people lying around in the dreariness and next to that we could see into the men’s ward. It had a number of new hospital beds, but they had no mattresses. Patients who would stay there would have to bring in a mattress to sleep on.
The hospital is small but has a number of departments including Maternity, Dental, Radiography and a lab.
How they manage without basic electricity is beyond me. The waiting area was empty as consultations only take place in the morning time. This area was brighter than the rest of the hospital but only because it was an area open to the elements – the sun, today.
Medicins du Monde has built a new facility for cholera sufferers which is a dedicated unit built in the grounds of the hospital. The hospital also has an isolation ward for patients suffering from contagious diseases.
I am sure the medical care offered in the hospital is quality care but the surroundings and facilities available to patients do not inspire confidence in a system that seems starved of basic resources – electricity in particular.
My visit was between 4 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon but had I visited after dark, I would not have seen anything as the hospital, like most places in the town of Jean Rabel, would be in darkness.