by Marcello Colombino
I have to apologise, the lack of posting is due only to my lazyness…
In this post I will describe our progress in the Hospital of…El Progreso..
Eric and I arrived here two weeks ago from Costa Rica, we were welcomed by Melvin, a gynaecologist who works in the hospital here, teaches at the faculty of medicine in San Pedro Sula and is currently doing a Ph.D. in Economics..not bad. He leaves in a fairly modern house 5 minutes away from the hospital in a compound protected by walls and barb wire. Honduras is not a safe place and we were told in the first day to take care and not to walk on the streets at night.
The first day at the hospital we met Juan Carlos, a very intelligent and outgoing man, trained as a technician that was working in the maintenance department. he showed us around the hospital. The structure appears quite old and extremely busy. the machinery is often very old and often in bad condition. We asked if there was a ‘bodega’, a warehouse of broken equipment and the answer was promptly no.. We were given some nebulisers to look at and by just unclogging the motor from dust and fixing some simple connection issues we were able to have them working…to send them back to operation…that is another story.
Juan Carlos never showed up again and we later found out that, very sadly, he earns more money by being a driver than a technician so he left his job at the hospital. We are therefore left working alone in the maintenance department, supervised by Melvin, a technician that supposedly works in general maintenance (air conditioning etc.) but we believe he just doesn’t work.. He, as many others here, has the tendency of replying what you want to hear and then forget immediately what you have asked him. We are also a bit confused by another presence, Devis, a very skinny guy nicknamed ‘El Flaco’ that seems standing outside our door and having no other job than, whenever we leave, closing it and disappear..
Left in this condition we are, on the second day a bit depressed, no machines to fix and noone taking us seriously. Luckily there was Billy, who came to visit our Hospital and , seen the situation, he started running around the Hospital with impunity asking for the sub-director that was called from the ER to talk to us, Billy introduces ourselves and we are taken to the Bodega that actually exists where the situation we found was quite disconcerting
What stroke us were two brand new incubators lying under boxes of expired medicines and pieces of broken furniture…
We took them to our little workshop and started testing them…surprise…they are perfect…we are astonished so we start asking around..nobody knows. Whit a little more research we find out that they have been lying there for five years. Some nurse did not know how to programme them and had decided that they were broken; result is: in maternity the incubators are 50 years old, in the warehouse the incubators are brand new.
Billy left and on Wednesday we had our darkest day: Melvin is angry at us because we stepped on his feet, he does not want to give the incubators back because it’s too much work, the nurses do not know how to use them, they will break the sensors again etc.. Result: the incubators go back to the Bodega. We are left with our sadness and a few other nebulisers to fix…
Things suddenly get better: we are called to maternity to fix a infusion pump, while there the doctor asks us about what we are doing and while we are talking i hear her complaining to the nurse that they do not have enough incubators…as I mention the ones we have seen and tested the day before she is excited and wants to see them..now we have the autorisation and we get them out of the bodega again and show her how they work. She tells us that the following Wednesday there is the reunion of the maternity personnel and we have to prepare a talk and train the nurses in using the modern incubators. Now it’s Melvin that is sad..and we are happy..
We start realising, by wondering around the hospital, that our expectations were totally different: I was picturing empty shelves and people doing everything they could to use the little resources. The problem is the opposite: they have a lot of donated equipment and spare parts, all lost in an indescribable confusion and people needing to take care of them being extremely slow and lazy, with some exceptions obviously. The doctors on the other end do everything they can and we started noticing that, once they realise that we are willing to work and help, they start bypassing the normal process and giving equipment directly to us.
On that day we were given a suction pump from a surgeon and a pulse oximetre from the maternity nurses. The pump was an electric problem and we manage to bypass the broken connection while the pulse oximetre was displaying a strange error that we had to look up the internet. It was enough to press two buttons together to reprogram the unit and in 10 seconds a 1000$ machine was back to work. We later found two others with the same problem lying for two years in the bodega and again with twenty seconds we saved 2000$ to the hospital.
This was the most productive day: we met Jorge, our real boss, that came even if he is on holiday. He is vey intelligent and very experienced: when he is around people start working a little more and he appreciates our job.
in the morning a surgeon came, almost in tears, because her only electrosurgery unit for laparoscopy was not working properly and she had patients to operate with urgency. Eric and I were extremely sceptic seen the complexity of the machine but we sat with jorge and tried to test it (by cutting and burning a piece of liver).
After an hour of trying to figure out the problem we saw that one of the connection in the dispersive electrode was loose: a bit of solder and the machine is as new…the surgeon is the happiest person i have seen in a while and we have won her trust..from there on things are in descent.
After work we leave to Roatan in the bay islands for the weekend..Jorge gives us the permission of taking Monday off because the travel is very long.
Roatan is one of the best tropical pradise i have ever seen (even on TV), i am extremely jealous oj Jens and Tom that are located here with their hospital.
all the 16 EWH students in Honduras met there and we had an incredible weekend of beach, snorkelling more beach more relaxing.