Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hospital in GB - Construction and Patient Life

I like responding to requests! Someone asked me this week to talk about construction work and the weather.  (Note:  I wrote about putting up a church roof in Bohong in my blog entry of October 26, 2012 – you could check that out, too.)  I am writing today about some renovation work being done at the Protestant Hospital in Garaou Boulai – supported by the Église Évangélique Luthérienne au Cameroun and its partners  Much of the money for the renovations comes from an ELCA World Hunger grant.  I decided to add a little about what it is like to be a patient and the construction of a paillot in Baboua as well.  Weather will come in a future blog entry…

Adding On and Fixing Up
The Protestant Hospital is very close to my guest house in Garoua Boulai.  I walk on the road that cuts through it each time I go to town (including to the market).  For two months I have been watching construction there.  I have considered taking pictures, but thought, “Why be obsessive about taking pictures?  This is not my area of work…”  Well, I guess you might find it as interesting as I do, so maybe I should have taken pictures at earlier stages of the work!

The plan is to create covered walkways between the main hospital building and other nearby buildings where patients stay.  The workers have also replaced the roof on some patient rooms, redone the outside wall coverings, replaced the doors, and will soon paint. 

The workers started by cutting down some branches of a tree in the courtyard so that there would be room for the walkways.  Then, they began making cement blocks.  We think of buying them from a lumberyard, but here they mix the cement, put it in molds, and then put the blocks in the sun to dry.  Here are two pictures – one is the pile of cement used to make blocks – and also used to dry clothes…  The other is the cinder blocks drying in the sun with the walkway and courtyard in the background. 

It is similar to the process used to make mud bricks that are most often used for houses, schools, etc.  The mud bricks can be fired to make them stronger.  The pile of bricks is covered by straw and wood and then it is burned during the course of a night.  Like a kiln, but not fancy…  Here’s a picture (from a village in CAR) of the mold for mud bricks and some of them drying in the sun.

The building pictured at right had its roof removed and new supports put in place.  Then, new corrugated tin was put on top.  This is the most common “permanent” roof.  Also common are thatched ones.  (See the section below about building a paillot.)  This building also had 2 skim coats of cement (I think) added to the underlying bricks.  It will soon be painted.  The doors are new, too.  The rooms in this building are for patients. 

Aside:  Cutting the Grass at the Lutheran Station. 
On my way to take pictures of the construction, I passed three men cutting the grass which had gotten thigh-high.  They were using machetes which always fascinates me, so I took their pictures.  The man in the second picture is sharpening the blade.  Because this is the station build by the US missionaries, the maintenance man, Jean, also has a lawnmower which he uses regularly.  Either this grass got too high for the lawnmower or it is not part of the area Jean regularly cuts…  

Life as a Patient at the Hospital
Writing about the construction at the hospital makes me think about differences between a patient’s life here and in the US.  As you can see, the hospital here is not as large as most in the US and in not enclosed in one building.  Of course, hospitals here don’t need to be heated in the winter!  The walkways are to shield people from the sun and rain (somewhat, because when it rains hard and blows, these walkways are not enough!)

Here in Cameroon doctors visit patients in their rooms and, in another area of the hospital, see out-patients.  Nurses give medications, take temperatures, and routinely check on patients.  Records are kept.  All of this is much as it is in the US. Here, though, patients or their families keep the notebooks that are used for records.  They also buy the medicines at the hospital pharmacy and are also expected to buy the needles needed to give medications or take blood for analysis.  (At least they can be sure that the needles are clean!) 

There are other differences, too.  The hospital provides beds with mattresses for in-patients, but the families provide sheets and meals.  Cooking is done outside over wood fires (the way most families also prepare meals at home.)  Family members bring mats and rest/sleep on the floor of the room to provide care.  Sometimes they also bring foam mattresses.  The picture at the right shows a large mat in my living room that is similar to those families bring to the hospital.  (I didn’t want to intrude to take pictures of families and sick patients in the hospital. And, yes, that is a chimney in the corner – not that it is ever cold enough to have a fire in it!)  These mats used to be woven from straw but are now most often made in factories with plastic thread.  The picture at the right shows a couple of old mattresses being used to cover some building materials to protect them from the rain – or maybe this is just a garbage pile that will be removed later!  Hospitals here have no televisions or telephones for patients.  Patients who have them bring their own cell phones, of course. 

Patients here spend much less to get hospital care, but, even so, many people can’t afford to come.  There is generally no insurance although those who work (other than as farmers in their own fields) may have some assistance from their employers.  For example, I help pay my employees’ hospital visits and medicines and I know the Lutheran Church here has an assistance plan for their workers.

Building a Paillot
While I was in Baboua, the roof of the paillot next to my house needed to be replaced.  I took pictures of the stages used.  First, the old straw roof and wood supports were removed.  Then the men replaced the wood supports – of two different sizes – and then replaced the straw.  The whole process took several weeks.  This paillot has a low stone wall enclosing it.  Some just have the poles that hold up the roof.  This is the paillot that one of the guards of the station in Baboua uses at night.  He is very glad to have the protection when it rains hard!  Paillots are also used as protection from the sun, but as a night guard, Dimanche generally doesn’t use this paillot during the day.


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