Why are people going to Karanda Hospital ?
By Dr Brighton Chireka
I was surprised when I received a telephone call from my mother telling me that she was on her way to Karanda hospital which is just outside Mount Darwin town. I thought she was going to visit a relative but no she was not. She was going for her own medical consultation and this left me with more questions than answers. Obviously I cannot interrogate this special lady that I call mum so I let her go and she was happy with the treatment she got there.
I was curious to know more about this hospital and I looked for contact details of one of the doctors at the hospital. I managed to get hold of one doctor there and requested to visit the hospital. My request was granted and I set off for the hospital on the 5th October 2015. I had to leave Harare early in the morning so that I could get to the hospital before it was busy. I had a pleasant journey as the road from Harare to Mount Darwin is all tarred and in very good condition.
On arrival in Mount Darwin , I had two options either to take the Chesa road which is all tarred and then do a few kilometres of “dust” road to reach the hospital or use the Dotito road. The Dotito road is mainly dust road and requires a good car to negotiate the bumps in the road. I decided to use the Dotito road first and come back using the other road so that I had an appreciation of both routes.
Of note is that in Mount Darwin there is a government District Hospital but people are shunning it and are going to Karanda hospital. I decided to find out more from the patients so I gave a free ride to a few of them who were going to the hospital. I had two elderly men , one young man and one middle aged woman in the car that I was driving. I gave them a free ride to the hospital and started to ask them about their reasons of going to Karanda.
I soon realise that perception plays an important role in life and we cannot ignore it. Patient’s views are being ignored and it’s something that I quickly discovered when I was chatting to these patients in my car . The elderly gentleman who was sitting in the front seat told me that he does not trust the medicine that they are given at the government hospitals because he believes that there are not strong enough. He went on to tell me that medicines in government hospitals are diluted with more water so that they are used on many people but will have lost their efficacy.
I was told that you hardly find doctors at the government hospitals as they are either at conferences or at their private surgeries. They went on to tell me that at Karanda, a patient will find doctors on duty and is guaranteed to be seen. There are more specialists at Karanda Hospital than at the government hospital and the pharmacy is fully stocked than the one at the District Hospital.
Patients told me that they feel welcomed at the hospital and the doctors who are white speak the local language fluently. I was amazed by the testimonials that I was getting from these patients. It gave me a rough idea of why these patients were flocking to Karanda hospital. I was surprised when one patient advised me to turn right as we had arrived at the hospital. I thanked all the patients for talking to me and were stretching their hands to pay me for the transport. I politely told them to use that money for their treatment and I was humbled by the way they thanked me . It was as if I had done something special when in actual fact I had only offered them a free ride.
I went straight to the administration block and was pleased that they were expecting me. I was taken to the ward where the doctor was doing a ward round ( seeing patients that were admitted). I felt welcomed and was introduced to each and every patient that he saw. I was just there observing how things are run at this hospital. It was interesting as the doctor at Karanda was white and original from Canada but working in Zimbabwe for over 20 years. He spoke Shona fluently and introduced me as “muyenzi from UK – Unit K auya kuzofeya feya kuti tinoshanda sei. ” ( a visitor from UK – Unit K who has come to “spy” on how we work).
Patients felt relaxed and could freely ask questions. I could see them smiling as they spoke with their doctor even if they looked seriously ill. I could see that this doctor was acting as a pill to these patients and his visits were making the patients feel much better. Relatives were at some of the bedsides and were able to ask more questions directly to the doctor. I was pleasantly surprised at the openness in discussing about HIV infection and the lack of stigmatisation or segregation. All patients were receiving the same treatment from the members of staff.
I could see hope against hope being ignited and openness when things were failing. One patient was sadly advised to go home as the hospital had done their best and there was nothing further they could do. I was touched by the way the message was conveyed and the way the patient and relatives took it.
Soon it was time to move on to other areas of the hospital. I was taken to all the departments in the hospital including the theatres and the pharmacy. I could see the place getting more and more busy as more patients started to arrive. I soon realise that I had to end my visit soon as I did not want to inconvenience the patients that were waiting to see their doctor.
We had a quick private meeting exchanging notes and putting my vision of a healthcare system to the doctor. I was given an honest feedback about my ideas and I am glad that I visited this hospital. I came out more wiser and I now have a modified strategy on how we can tackle our healthcare challenges.
In conclusion , Karanda hospital is giving hope to the hopeless and people are prepared to travel as far as Bulawayo. I think we need to share this good practice that is taking place at this hospital so that people do not have to travel long distances. At least 50% of patients being seen at Karanda are from outside its catchment area. It is a small hospital and cannot cope with this influx of desperate people. Something has to be done. I suggest we emulate the good practice taking place there and implement it to all the district hospitals throughout the country. I also think we need to support this hospital so that it continues to offer first class healthcare at a low budget level.
This article was compiled by Dr. Brighton Chireka who is a GP and a Patient Engagement Advocate (PEA) in Folkestone Kent, UK. He is also an NHS Certificated Change Agent (CCA). You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog DR CHIREKA’S BLOG
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr Chireka has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.