Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Medical care is a serious problem in Ethiopia, with few facilities available and a shortage of highly professional staff. Foreigners living in Addis are evacuated through a procedure called Medvac as soon as they require medical treatment outside of the most basic. Ethiopian people do not have such luxury and have to do with the services public hospitals can offer here. I heard many stories of people dying from a heart attack because the defibrillator was not working on that day, or succumbing to injuries because they were not treated on time, or even having to have a light operation without anesthetics because the hospital had run out of it. In many cases, if the hospitals have the equipment, it is not always maintained properly and often does not work when it is the most needed.
For us the situation somewhat improved when Doctor Karibian, an Ethiopian-Armenian paediatrician who trained in Europe, opened his own private clinic in Addis. At the same time as treating private patients, he is also investing a lot of time and resources in renovating the paediatric emergency room of the Yekatit 12 public hospital in Sidist kilo, one of the busiest and most important hospital in Addis. With his help and under his supervision, the existing ER building has been fully renovated to include seven examination rooms as well as a separate care room with specific equipment to treat critically ill children. In addition, a new triage area was built with the support of Elmi construction, which funded the added wing. Doctor Karibian’s project has also benefited from a number of other donors, however, more funds are needed to purchase the required equipment. In his view, paediatric patients respond very well to basic treatment such as oxygen, intravenous fluids and antibiotics, so with the proper facilities and training, lives can be spared.
I went to visit the new facility and saw the brand new triage building and the refurbished rooms. At the time, a few patients were being treated. Through a glass window into a room, I saw one of the children lying down on a bed with a drip, with three worried adults around him, hoping for him to get better. The rooms are simple but neat and clean, which is already an achievement here. As Dr Karibian explained, performing simple tasks such as cleaning and washing a hospital room is not so straight forward here because hospital staff don’t believe it is their job and therefore do not do it. So it is not uncommon to see traces of old blood on the wall tiles or on the floor. The hardest task in his view was not to renovate the rooms but will be to ensure proper management and maintenance thereafter, and make sure that the doctors on call feel accountable and responsible for the facilities as much as for the patients. “It is a long-term project I got myself involved in here,” he commented, “I will have to provide regular training but above all, I will have to constantly oversee the management of the place.” He is already fully managing the funds dedicated to the new ER and he needs all the support he can get not only now but also in the future. Anybody wishing to have more information on his highly commendable project can consult his website www.aapediatrics.com where pictures as well as information on how to donate are available. Having seen the facilities and knowing the doctor, I really trust that it will continue to be a well run project.