Monday, May 17, 2010

Treated with Fear

"Sarah, you can't imagine how the doctors are here," explains my friend, Vera.  Concern for her friend chokes her voice.  "Monica had a baby 6 days ago and now has a high fever.  She is in the hospital.  The doctors can't find anything wrong but are treating her with lots of medicines.  She is not allowed to have her baby with her.  She has to stay in the hospital for 2 weeks."  As I ask more questions it begins to sound like the mother has engorgement or possibly mastitis but any number of infections are possible.  A high percentage of mothers and babies acquire staph infections in the maternity ward from unsanitary conditions.  Vera went to the hospital and asked the doctor questions about Monica's diagnosis.  The doctor became furious with her for asking questions, telling Vera she's ignorant and stupid.  Despondent, Vera gave up. "There's nothing we can do.  Monica will stay in the hospital, not knowing what is wrong with her or what she is being treated for.  Her family will dutifully run to the pharmacy to purchase whatever medicines the doctor orders and pay the high bribes to the doctor for her care.  If they don't the doctor threatens to never treat her again, or worse, just let her die.  It's just the way things are done here.  Two other women sharing the room with Monica have infants at home and they sit in the hospital not even receiving any medications.  The doctor tells them they must stay.  They're too afraid to leave."

The stories of the medical care here are endless. This is just today's story.  I could recount far worse - even horrifying stories.  Numerous times we consult the internet or our family and friends who are nurses and doctors, and give medical advice to those asking us for it.  They don't trust their doctors but they will rarely do anything to question or go against the doctor's orders.  The doctors treat their patients not with compassion, not with knowledge, but with fear.

"Don't go to the hospital unless you're going to die, because if you do go, you will die."  This is the advice we have received from local people.  I must say my greatest fear of living in Ukraine is that in the case of a medical emergency I would have to make a decision about whether to risk my child's life by going to a Ukrainian hospital or risk the lost time trying to get to a hospital in Hungary.  Thankfully, we haven't been in such a dire state and we have always managed to get to a private hospital outside Budapest, Hungary (about a 5 hour drive away).  There are closer hospitals available in Hungary but hopefully we won't ever need them!  Local Ukrainians, however, don't have the luxury of seeking medical care in another country.  They are left to suffer with a corrupt, outdated medical system where there is no concern for the patient's well-being.  Indeed, they have a lot to fear.

You who fear him, trust in the Lord - he is their help and shield. - Ps. 115:11

Here are recent pictures of my friend's stay in the maternity ward of the Mukachevo hospital.  This is the delivery room.  Two women can deliver in one room simultaneously.

The shower (one for the entire floor) is a new development.  The door from the corridor to the shower room doesn't lock so the women improvise by pulling up a single chair to the door so that when someone tries to come in they'll hit the chair and know it's occupied.  Just a few years ago there were no showers and only cold running water.  After delivery you couldn't clean up or shower until you were discharged from the hospital 5-7 days later.

My friend's room is an average hospital room but exceptional in the fact that there is only one bed in this room.  Most rooms have around 6 beds and typically are occupied by 2-3 women and their infants.

The sink has only cold water.

Another relatively new development is that babies are allowed to stay with their mothers in the room.  Just a few years ago this wasn't allowed and babies were brought to their moms every 3 hours for feeding and then returned to a common nursery.  My friend was encouraged to see posters on the walls describing how to breastfeed.  In the past there had been no explanation or assistance at all.

 The corridor to the postpartum floor.


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