Wednesday, February 7
Black Lion Hospital
“There are things which much cause you to lose your reason, or you have none to lose”
I recently visited the pediatric casualty ward of Black Lion Hospital. The images I encountered there will remain with me forever.
Despite being one of the largest hospitals in the country, conditions are absolutely horrifying; the peeling white and yellow paint provides little contrast from the grey and dirty concrete floors and corridors marked by puddles of urine, vomit and other unidentifiable fluids. There are no fans in sight, and the foul stench of body odor, urine and disease is staggering. Though there seemed a minimum of 14 to a room, I saw no curtains or masks to divide those with malaria, HIV or dysentry from those with acute respiratory infections or other contagious diseases.
Where there are cribs they are, for the most part, in varying stages of unacceptable disrepair—the matresses are stained and torn and the rusted rails most often no longer close. The rest of the infants and young children are forced to lie wherever there is room (most without blankets) on dirty wooden benches or on the floor on makeshift cardboard mats. I saw three infants lying perilously on a surface resembling the stainless steel trays used in the West for holding the sterile equipment of surgeons. Family members who are unable to afford accomadation within the city have no choice but to sleep on the floor beneath or beside their dying young. The presence of doctors, nurses and interns are scarce—one anxious father reported that he had not seen his child’s doctor in over seven days. A mother begged me for water to give to her dying child, as another struggled desperately to give her newborn child medicine from a glass, due to the apparent absence of baby bottles or eye droppers in the ward. I saw a ‘cast’ made of duct tape, cardboard and a plastic bag worn by a tiny patient who lay wimpering on the floor with an IV attached to his head. I was told that in this hospital, infants suffering from a specific liver condition are placed directly underneath 100-watt bulbs, apparently for some kind of improvised treatment—an incredibly painful and dangerous procedure which on its own can cause blindness and severe burns.
Before leaving, I spoke briefly with a foreign intern who explained with a defeated sigh that every day they were forced to carry out medical procedures for which they were unqualified, because "there is simply nowhere to turn for help”.
Hope seemed, for the most part, absent from this ward; I was told most children would not live to see e following week.
(Annual Federal Health Expenditure: 4.9%)