The Mauritius Health Service

By Mona R. Babajee

Something which has always got my goat is this: I have thought about it for a long time and feel I should bring it out. I don’t know if Ward 9, 10 and 11 are still in use at Dr Jeetoo Hospital and how things are during lunch and supper time in the new wing. When the nurse gives out medication to the patient, she usually takes the medicine trolley round or takes the tablets to each patient.

But why is it that during meal times, patients have to stand in a queue in the middle of the ward with plate in hand. It’s prisoners usually who have to stand in line with their bowl or plate waiting to be served, or beggars on street corners who have to sit or stand with their plates waiting for alms. Patients don’t belong to either category. This custom should have no place in our hospitals in 2012. Sometimes if they can’t get up, they have to ask their neighbour to get their food.

In my last article in October 5, I mentioned that we should contribute towards improving our health services and when you’ve finished reading this, judge for yourself. In 2009, I spent 5 weeks in Ward 9 at Dr Jeetoo Hospital with an infected big toe after I’d knocked it badly against some weights and I’m also diabetic. It looked like a red tomato. I went to my Health Centre first, then I consulted a doctor in a private clinic but I knew the fees would be enormous, so I went to the hospital because why do we have hospitals for? I thought I would receive the appropriate care for in 2004, Dr Oozeerally treated me for broncho-pneumonia for two weeks. I was very sick.

The antibiotics that were being used weren’t doing anything good for this type of infection and they were what you might call “antibiotique zenfant”. I was a qualified nurse, you think I don’t understand anything about antibiotics. I told the doctor to try something stronger and named one, but he said no, it would be alright. Sometimes, it would take over two weeks to get the results of a culture swab and by then the patient may have kicked the bucket already.

When I went for the “debridement” in theatre, it was a nightmare and a real torture. I cried my eyes out. Pethidine, a stronger painkiller was of no use at all. Have you ever had it done? Do you know what it is to have a scalpel blade scraping your skin and that after being given a local anaesthetic using a huge green syringe which is meant for intramuscular injection in the buttock, where there is plenty of flesh. My foot felt as if it was on fire after. This procedure should be carried out under general anaesthesia for you can’t subject patients to torture. This is not the Crimean war.

After five weeks of unnecessary agony and suffering, my elder son decided to come and see for himself. He works at The Moorfields Eye Hospital and couldn’t believe the situation I was in. He asked for my discharge, then took me to a private clinic in the Plaines Wilhems in the afternoon where I stayed for one week. I was given Rocephine and Gentamycin intravenously, of which we have plenty in our hospital and many other drugs. Dr Reebye, bless him, looked after me and carried out a last debridement under general anaesthetic for he didn’t want to put me through hell again. He gave me a nice clean wound and if I had stayed longer in hospital, I could and would have lost my leg and nobody would have cared two hoots. He didn’t charge me much on humanitarian grounds after what I had been through in hospital, but for the room, all those drugs, dressings, anaesthetic and god knows what else, my son had to foot a bill the length of the National, yes the road, not the soap. He didn’t mind though.

But unfortunately, the worm was already in the fruit from the hospital. After two and a half months I started having pain in my foot and noticed some swelling. This is not right I thought. There was a doctor from South Africa, a specialist in foot problems who was coming to see patients in a private clinic in Port Louis. I went and had a scan which cost Rs 4,300 and from the results Osteitis or Osteomyelitis had started to set in, that is infection of the bone, very difficult to treat from my experience.

I couldn’t afford another spell in a clinic again, so I decided to bring the clinic home. I had to buy 14 injections of Meropenem, a strong antibiotic (against aerobic and anaerobic Gram positive and Gram negative infections usually hospital acquired septicaemia) at Rs 2000 each for 7 days. Plus 14 packs of Normal Saline “serom” to mix the injection in, intravenous infusion sets, various cannulas, syringes, needles, plaster and finally find and pay someone to come twice daily to set the infusions up and wait until the end. My younger son said: “Don’t worry about the money mum, I’ll send it, just look after your health.”

That wasn’t the end of the story. The doctor had already prescribed more antibiotics tablets called Altacef and I had to take it twice daily for 6 weeks costing Rs 6 each. After the whole treatment, the pain and swelling all disappeared and it was time to get my life back on track again. Later, I heard we have meropenem in our hospitals and as it comes from India it costs Rs 800. I am used to hospital life and do you know what it should be for a doctor who has been able to save a patient’s limb or even if it is a toe. Sometimes it is inevitable and we all know that. But like they say, there are doctors and doctors, just like there are nurses and nurses.

That’s why I am saying , we should contribute towards improving our health services because then, no one will have to worry from whose pocket that money is coming from, how expensive the medicine is or how much a CAT scan, Echography, Gastroscopy, EEG and other tests will cost.

It’s thanks to Dr Reebye and Dr Thudhope that for two years running I have been able to come to the UK, else I would still be nursing and licking my wound. God willing, I’ll come next year also. If things had gone well at the hospital from the beginning, I wouldn’t have had to go through this ordeal and waste so much money. It really ruffles my feathers up whenever I think about it. You can’t live in the past but the past lives on with you.

One day on the ward, I watched an Indian, Dr M, a physician ordering a scan for an elderly patient who threw herself out of bed the previous night. Can anyone or the government say to him ‘why did you order that scan or do you know how much it costs in a private clinic’. I’ve seen him a few times in other wards and always felt he had the patient’s welfare at heart. And struggling with Creole to communicate with them or using Hindi.

* Published in print edition on 1 November 2012

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