Saturday, September 25, 2010

Caracas Emergency Department

A final word on moto-taxis.  No, this is not me on the back.  There are so many of these things whizzing around that an inspiring photographer could make a collection of shots like this.

Last night I toured a Caracas Emergency Department and I've come to the conclusion that most third-word hospitals are the same: short on supplies and long on sick people.  The entrance to the building had all the charm of an East German jail, complete with bars, a sleepy guard, stained tiled floors, and blinking florescent lights. Continuing through the waiting room there was the normal cast of the sick and sleeping laid out on cold metal benches oblivious to one another.

When I walked into the ER all I could see was rows of beds behind a single, long curtain.  Every patient had an IV drip, which I took to be a good sign, but my optimism ended there.  No gloves or masks for the staff, shockingly limited medications, blood-stained floors and sheets, and some of the worse X-rays I've ever seen. 

I spoke with some of my colleagues, pointing some things out and cautioning them not to judge too harshly.  The hospital staff was clearly doing the best that it could with what meager supplies the State had given them. I spoke with the attending physician, he quietly detailed of the nightly struggles to make due with what he was given.  The nurses sang the same tune, each day the staff had to make decisions about which patients got what was left of the dwindling supplies.  This was not a place to be sick, and I couldn't help but hearken back to my death-defying moto-taxi ride that morning.  If we had had an accident, this is where I would have ended up, possibly for good.

1 comment:

lorraine said...

Hi Eric: I'm the RN who has been reading you since Iraq. We had a code blue in our little "third world hospital" in a small, small town in No Calif. We only had ped stylets on our crash cart - had to run, run around all over ER and ICU for supplies as the new to our hospital - ER doc did the best she could with what we were handing her. She got us a heart beat, intubation and managed him into ICU - such as it is - alive! It is amazing what the willing can do with nothing but the very basics. We do have a bit more than you describe - have you been to India in the early 70's? Nothing - Period, comma and questionmark. My friend was in an auto accident. Bedbugs in the beds, ants crawling up catheters (I saw with my own eyes) and crows waiting to pick out eyes of the dead when the took their last breath. I saw and lived all of this including delivering the still born baby she was carrying in her. How in the hell I ever wanted to do this as a mission and a living I have no idea - why you??