Everything in the Pearl of Africa has become politicized including issues that are a matter of life and death.
When one hears of a mother dying while giving birth they cry out to the government for help.
Maybe, as a country, we need to start asking ourselves what the government comprises of? I think the inability to fully answer this question has mentally crippled us into thinking that we cannot help ourselves out of anything.
A crippled health system is the talk of almost every health article. The mess extends from the infrastructure to service provision not to mention the underperformed roles of the various stakeholders. Speaking of stakeholders to this crumpled sector, where does all this leave the patients, key stakeholders? First thoughts usually go to ministers, health professional regulatory bodies, and health care providers among others.
This reminds me of my friend Beatrice (not real names) and who lost her baby girl. On that fateful day, she passed by a health center after not feeling well for a number of days. She was about five months pregnant and this was her first visit to a health worker during this her third pregnancy. After the basic examinations, the results of her blood pressure level were shocking. The necessary measures were quickly taken but when her condition became critical, the ultimate plan was to terminate the pregnancy (of course with her consent) otherwise, they would both die. It was the most painful decision she had ever taken. There were various events that surrounded the whole scenario but what stood out for Beatrice were the health workers who didn’t do enough to save her baby. Besides the doctor arriving late when called upon and demanding for some investigations that could only be accessed from a nearby private clinic. However, Beatrice thought that the doctor was buying himself time and asked to be referred. But the nurse insisted that she needed to first have her BP controlled otherwise, she would not make it!
The question is: If we can’t help the system, how do we help ourselves?
What could Beatrice have done differently to save her girl? There are many Beatrices among us. How do we help them? While we wait on the government to help us deliver drugs in health centers or later on build one near us or blame doctors and nurses for not showing up for their duties and tolerate the unsatisfactory services in the health sector, let us help ourselves, for example, paying our taxes duly to provide salaries to the Doctors and Nurses.
My friend Beatrice blames the staff at that facility. But…………………………………………………………… What if she checked in at the health center as soon as she learnt that she was pregnant? What if she did things just a little different? Your guess is not different from mine. Maybe her baby would have lived to see the shine of the sunrays.
How about the bigger perspective? If we reported to hospitals at early symptom onset, what if we took the medications as prescribed, or had the appropriate diets, drunk safe water, exercised, name it, think of anything healthy that you are lazy to do. These are trivial but healthy habits or behaviours that are pertinent to us as individuals (the patients). Neither the health worker nor your LC1 chairman can do them for you. The VHTs may monitor your vitals but they will not hospitalize you when need be, the government may build all the posh hospitals there is but they will not force you to go there likewise they can avail the long-demanded drugs but they still cannot make you swallow them. Beatrice may have been unfortunate to develop a pregnancy complication, but what explains her delay to go for antenatal care? I have no doubt that a number of factors came into play but we shall save the debate.
I acknowledge the efforts that have been made towards this effect of empowering communities but the utmost empowerment comes from within. It always comes back to me – the individual – and our personal responsibilities. We owe that to the other stakeholders in the sector that is our role to play and cannot be taken away from us (not only in the matters of health but even in life generally).
Every one of us ought to perform their role, however, minor or insignificant it may seem. In the end, they all add up to what we may see as significant. Therefore, before we throw the blame, let us ascertain that the logs in our eyes (as the Holy Scripture puts it) have been removed. Let’s relieve others of their presumed duties and take on what is entitled to us. The baby steps would hopefully someday get us to adult ones, the health system in our imaginations.
Written by Regina Ndagire N - BSN