The Eye-opening Visit
It has been a long tiring day but I felt compelled to write this blog entry as the memory was still etched in my mind. The time I spent at the Haematology Ward at Yangon General Hospital was rather inspirational and should I be given the chance, I would more than happy to give it another visit.
Before I go on any further, I would not pretend that the health service there was any better than ours. But the main different was, how the Doctors and patients there cope with the severe limitations that they have over there. Things which we took for granted here were luxuries, be it, the ability to use sophisticated tests to help diagnose and treat our patients, the availability of modern drugs, in terms of chemotherapy and even basic antibiotics, as well as the superior human resource that we have here.
Let's start from the patients. They came from far and wide mtgs major difference there was, given the choice between modern medicine and traditional remedies, they would prefer modern. Maybe, the scarcity shape their thinking as here, many patients arrogantly prefers the traditional means even when they do more harm to them. The patients there appreciate the care being offered, that bit more than what we do here. The extended family will stay with the patients while they were being warded, and since some of them traveled many days to the hospitals, all the family members would sleep at the hospital with them. These family member would then become helpers, they do the chores, such as lifting patients, cleaning - even the toilets, distribute food. Realising their invaluable help, the hospital actually have a separate area for these caters to sleep should they wish, a separate toilet, kitchen and even social rooms with TV. For them, the nurses job was to assist the Doctors. The family members would do the cleaning and changing for them.
The patients here would have to pay for the drugs themselves, but the blood products, hospital stay as well as doctors fee were provided by the government. Realising that not everybody can afford the medicines, the Doctors utilises the help from NGOs as well as judicial use of generic products. The Pharmaceuticals also lent their hands through generous discounts and donations. I even saw some of the ward furnitures had Pharmaceutical company names etched on them.
Lastly, let me mention about the staffs. The Doctors there were being paid a pittance and brain drain had been a major issue for the country. In UMMC alone, there were six Myanmar Doctors I knew who worked in various fields of Medicine. They had to move abroad for better living, as well as a chance to have advance training. Yes, there were a few large private hospital I saw during my stay in Yangon, but only very few people can afford them. Medical Insurance was not something well-established in the country.
In the Haematology Unit which I visited, there were only five nurses on duty at any one time, as well as the Doctors there working everyday including Sundays. It was not uncommon that they admit 20 patients daily just in the Unit alone. But all the staffs there seemed unusually content. They welcomed us with open arms. We were taken round the Unit, meeting the patients and seeing the facilities, and not one complain we heard from them even off the records. When asked what they really needed for the development of the Unit, they mentioned funding for their juniors to advance their trainings. Such generous attitude.
It sure was an experience, something valuable which I appreciated more than the actual time in the lecturer hall listening about he latest therapy and how good they were. If I were invited again to go to visit another similar country, I would definitely find a way to see how the Doctors there cope. I was surer there were plenty I could learn.