Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Establishing a new health care clinic, by boat

Medecins Sans Frontieres has established a new clinic in Western Ethiopia. The Gambella Province clinic is in such a remote location that many of the people seeking health care have never seen a doctor before. During the building process, MSF had to ship in the supplies by boat because roads were impassable during the rainy season. The trip via boat to the clinic from the nearest city was 10 hours long.

From the Medecins Sans Frontieres website, we find this interview with Rebeckah Piotrowski who just returned from the new clinic.

How has MSF been able to reach them?

The program is located in a remote area of the province. We’ve set up a health clinic with an inpatient and an outpatient ward. We also send out teams of nurses in mobile clinics to help reach more people.

In the rainy season, all of the mobile clinics are by boats. In the dry season we can do it by car. We are reaching out to populations that have absolutely no access to very basic things, like health care and water.

Was it challenging setting up this remote project?

In the rainy season the project is 10 hours by boat to the nearest town. Everything had to come from the capital of the province because there was no market, food, or construction material where the health center was needed. The supply chain setup was initially a huge challenge.

Transportation is a continuing difficulty. Doing everything by boat during the rainy season is quite intense. MSF has never done this type of transport before, figuring out even basic things like fuel quantities or boat maintenance is an ongoing challenge.

What kinds of medical needs are MSF teams seeing?

The number of patients changes depending on dry or rainy season. When I left it was dry season and easier to travel so there was a peak in patient numbers. During the dry season we mainly see and treat malaria, malnutrition, and basic healthcare needs. We are also seeing cases of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. Currently, MSF refers TB and HIV cases to the regional hospital in Gambella for chest X-rays and drugs. While it might change in the future, the project does not have the capacity to treat these types of cases.

MSF is also trying to expand maternal health care. We are trying to get mothers to come in for pre- and post-natal visits and also to deliver in our health center. However, we haven’t seen a significant increase yet.

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