3 April 2017
Here is a brief note from Jo Martin, paediatrician, in response to my last newsletter. It was graciously accompanied by a generous contribution.
“Thanks for the opportunity again to support this worthwhile cause. So grateful to live and work in Australia, yet still support medical work overseas where it is needed most.”
Here is a letter from my current registrar, Kathleen Batty, which I would like to share with you.
In 2013, I undertook a month long placement in a relatively large hospital in Takoradi, Ghana. I worked in the Obstetrics & Gynaecology department, assisting the local doctors as best I could. This experience enlightened me on how poorly we understand Third World health issues. While it was difficult for me to make a meaningful contribution based on language barriers, I was able to observe the treatment of women in childbirth. I was shocked to see women discouraged and shamed for expressing pain or emotional distress in the process of having or losing babies. Women who had stillbirths were told to put on a happy face to encourage a happy womb. They were placed on wards beside mothers of new healthy babies. No psychological support was provided. The surgical theatres were basic to say the least. A bucket and kettle lay on the floor in the corner of the room, and were used to sterilise the surgical equipment between cases. There was a daily struggle to allocate the few oxygen cylinders to the patients most in need, and yet brand new high –tech equipment sat un-used in the hallways. They were undoubtedly donated without considerations for training, education and needs. I found it distressing not to be able to “fix” what seemed unjust to me. I now realise that what I was observing was a deeper cultural disparity that I could not begin to understand as a foreigner. Our contribution to Third World health care should match actual rather than perceived needs.
From Kathleen’s letter I glean the following;
- The need is huge! (Ghana is one of the “better off “African nations with GDP per capita of $4,400. For Zimbabwe, it’s $800 per capita.)
- The aid needs to be intelligent, targeted, and focused on appropriate training rather than necessarily providing equipment.
- Effective aid needs to be delivered by appropriately trained staff sensitive to cultural needs.
I am excited to report that our new project with our partners UNICEF is in Zimbabwe and involves local experts training medical staff in obstetric hospitals. I will elaborate soon!
Regards to all,
(On behalf of the Directors of TTD)