Healthcare should always be a priority of ours as we look to develop our country. The last week I’ve mourned two deaths – one of a child, the other of a senior citizen and when I hear the stories of their death, I can’t help but wonder if there was negligence that played a part in their deaths. iv

Let me rewind to a couple of weeks ago, to my own experience. My parents thought my high fever, lack of appetite and feeling of weakness was due to malaria and insisted I go to the clinic. En-route to my usual clinic, I decided that the popularity of that clinic would mean it would take hours for me to see a doctor, and I simply didn’t have the energy for it. I instructed my nephew, who was driving me as I was too weak to drive myself, to take me to a nearer clinic that I knew my siblings had been to before. True enough, I was seen within 15 minutes and to my amazement the doctor ordered a full blood test – which was a shocker when I too thought I only had malaria. 20 minutes later the results were in, I had bacteria in my blood – my stats were off the charts – and I was admitted.

The first day wasn’t so bad – could also have been that I was in and out of sleep the whole day. The next day, I was the only patient in the ward (it was a very interesting private clinic, where you don’t get a private room, but rather each patient is separated by curtains across your entire area for you and your visitors). I was quite glad to be the only patient in the ward that day as I was over the noise from the other patient’s visitors! But the thing I did notice was the nurses came to check on me less as there was no one else to check. In fact, as I had one drip out and waiting for the next one to be put in, the nurse comes in saying ‘Oh, I forgot to come back to put in your new drip!’, like it was no big thing. At this point, my temperature had stabilized and my blood pressure was going up (it had been 90/50 when I was admitted), so I guess they were less worried about me. I felt pretty much ok too, but doctor was not ready to discharge me.

Later that evening, around 8pm, my temperature shot up to 38.2 degrees and my bp was fast dropping. The nurse came in with all sorts of injections and stuff to help my temperature go down and lord knows what else – because if you don’t ask doctors or nurses you just get given any sort of medication! That was the last time I saw any nurse until 6am. I hardly slept that night, my drip stopped working at some point, and I was deeply regretting telling my family members I didn’t need anyone to spend the night with me.

Ok, since my return to Zambia, I have never been admitted to hospital – generally I don’t get sick, maybe occasionally I’ll get a cold but that’s about it. So anyway, I didn’t understand the need to have someone by your bedside, after all, if you’re paying for private healthcare, surely that should include a nurse to check in on you at night. 6am rolls along and the nurse realizes that the IV was not working as it should have been and the doctor was coming through in two hours time. She decided to put it in overdrive, the drip passed through me so quickly I was dizzy! Eventually I threw up.

When the doctors finally came through I berated the duty of care of the nurses. I spoke of my actual fear that I could have died during the night – by this time I knew just how serious bacteria in blood is. I was close to tears with emotion at this point – it had just been a rough two days for me, only my immediate family and closest friends knew I was in hospital. The lack of understanding of the seriousness of my infection coupled with the fact that I’m known to be strong and independent probably didn’t help, with people thinking their visit was not necessary. Instead I just felt lonely – eek! Anyway, so as I went off on the doctor – who I believed to be in management of the clinic, my emotions were taking over. The doctor did listen to my concerns, but was quick to have me discharged after that!

Forward a week later and as I’m listening to the story of the older man who died after an operation because of water build up in his lungs followed by sepsis, I couldn’t help but wonder if the round the clock checking in on a patient after surgery was observed – how did he get fluids in his lungs without anyone noticing?

A few days later, the story of the child dying after being sent home despite having a fever, it all seemed to point to our health care staff just not being fully attentive. At the funeral for this beautiful child, one lady remarked that there was no point in going to private facilities because ultimately the good doctors are at UTH. And I thought, if you’re going to get pretty much the same treatment – i.e. inattentive nurses, you may as well go to UTH! Besides, they too have fee paying wings so what is the real difference? Ultimately the bigger worry is where is the oversight in this case? Who really are these health care professionals accountable, who keeps them in check? Are you not outraged by this? I know I am. We cannot truly develop until we have a healthcare system that we can trust. Even look at the issue over the ‘missing’ drugs, that weren’t missing but were at Medical Stores!  What level of corruption is that that you don’t mind risking the lives of your own citizens for?

These are things that we need our politicians to be held accountable for, and to really demand this level of care when we’re voting them into office. 2016 is the year of issues, the year we should demand more from our leaders, and lets see the number of preventable deaths reduce drastically, or someone is brought to task for them!

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