The health sector in Africa is one that survives on stilts a lot of the time. The patient populations are so high, be it simple cough and colds to more complex liver disease, heart failure, and surgeries. The patient to physician ratio is exceptionally high, perhaps as high as 100:1 per day. As though that is not enough, there is that burden of diseases that just happen to obscure health courtesy such as malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, etc. To say that there is plenty of risk is a huge understatement. In addition, resources are usually running low. There was a week when mere examination gloves were out of stock on many wards. So you bring your patient, all critical, but no one is going to just touch them. You have to protect yourself first. So the nurse has to run up and down to first get a pair to use.
Also, the understaffing is a real issue. In a few centres, you realise that the majority of people you see dressed in white coats are actually intern/junior doctors…which makes one wonder: who is supervising their day-to-day activities? This is the health sector, not some random essay on architecture. The random supervisor present is a consultant, or a demotivated Medical Officer. So, in the end, the interns are slaving away, working weird shiftless hours like donkeys.
As though that is not enough, even paying the interns is such a hustle. Like, I don’t care that one really needs an internship to get registered. If you are going to tell someone to apply, then send them off to some random remote area (to which they did not apply) miles away from home in Africa, you better support them. You better do your best to make sure they get a little something. Money value is pretty low; it’s not like the dollar, so let’s not delude ourselves into thinking they get millions. However, when you make assurances (as government or Ministry of Health or whatever) at the start about how you’ve cut the monthly pay, but will pay up in time, keep to your end of the deal. Give people their few hundred thousands diligently. These are adults; they do not want to be running to their parents and guardians at this age.
Because the truth of the matter is: health workers are exhausted with these frequent machinations. Maybe they aren’t as elaborate as that. But according to my small understanding, if you assure people about an allocation of money as part of a budget, shouldn’t you NOT use that money for anything else but for what it’s allocated? Shouldn’t the conscience in you drive you to do what is right?
So when a frustrated, hungry and angry healthworker decides to work for half their hours so they can use the rest of their time doing something that actually pays, will you blame them? Yeah, I get that every healthcare person learns ethics in school- having the patients’ welfare above all else; never letting personal issues get in the way. But let me ask you this: would you like to be attended to by a yawning, unfocussed doctor (who might diagnose your heart failure oedema as renal disease without testing)? Would you love it if a jittery nurse (shakes due to hunger and waking too early) tried to insert a cannula into your hand? Would you be pleased if a demotivated pharmacist tossed unlabelled meds into your hand and gave you some rash order? If you are a normal person, I don’t think you would like any of that.
So what am I saying? Health workers should be taken care of, no matter what hold their ethics may have on them. When you create a beast, you will have to deal with it. Everyone with responsibilities in this sector should act appropriately. Because many people get into these professions with the intention of making a difference, and their choice to serve the country should not be used against them, period.