“Where will healers stand in the struggle for health care as a human right?” – Paul Farmer
I treat and take care of my patients every day- patients from all walks of life and all economic standings. However, the situations of the poorest of the poor are ones that I have never ever seen before in my life. Situations that are so unjust I cannot help but walk out their door so angered yet weak. I think when I arrived in Peru and had my first impression, I was a little less shocked because I had already been exposed to developing world poverty when I lived in the Dominican Republic. However, as I began to understand and know the situation of some of my patients here in Chimbote, I began to understand the graveness.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane” (attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
I have one patient of whom I particularly think of right now. He lives in an impoverished area of Chimbote and in a house that connects to his family’s house. He is bed-ridden, cannot speak, fragile, and bone skinny. He can cry and he does. He can understand and he understands it ALL. He can feel and I am sure he has so many feelings that he wants to express. But he can’t. All he can do is lie there. Alone. Everyday. Yes, I said his family lives in a house that connects to his, but I have learned that that has no significance. This man is abandoned… by his family… that lives right next door. Hard to understand right? But it happens and it is happening here. He lies in his soot, cockroaches on his bed, rats crawling around his live body…. and not one person in his family seems to care. They feed him his meals but by the way his bones protrude he is obviously malnourished beyond belief. We come to his house and we bathe him, we clean his wounds, we change his sheets, diaper, clothes and mouse poop off the bed. We change his catheter and shave his face. We do everything that we can but the reality is, we then leave his house. We leave him with his family…. and it breaks my heart every time. I know you are thinking, “Well do something about it! Tell somebody.” Who do I tell? A government that barely has any system in place for abandoned people? A system that takes a year to even process the claim. Tell the sisters/director of Hospicio? We have and we have asked the family multiple times if we could keep the patient in the Hospice Center to take care of him there. They have refused the care explaining that they have it under control. The worst part of it all is that some of them seem like decent, nice people. What do yo do when it SEEMS to everyone else that he has care, but in REALITY the poor man is completely abandoned? In hospice, we have conversations about him and what to do all the time and we always return the conversation but hardly anything changes. The family buys more antibiotic cream, soap, and shampoo for him but they are not THERE WITH HIM. I feel helpless, upset, and angered as I type this blog. I keep thinking oh well at the end I will give you all a solution. But, today there is no solution. Today life is unfair. Today my world is ugly.
“But the experiences of those who are sick and poor– and, often enough, sick because they’re poor– remind us that inequalities of access and outcome constitute the chief drama of modern medicine” (Paul Farmer from Pathologies of Power).
Health care is a basic human and social right. My patients deserve health care, but not just any type of health care. They deserve the best. The ones who are the sickest, the ones who are the poorest– those are the ones that deserve the best treatment and services. Is that how our world and health care system work? Unfortunately not. Those who can pay get the best. Where does that leave us medical personnel? How can we give them the best? How can I give my patients the best? I can give them the most patience and love that I hold within in me. I can clean their wounds in the most sterile manner possible. I can bathe them with the best care and gentleness that I can give. I can treat my patients in the clinic with the best respect and concern I can have. As for the resources that we are able to offer, that is something that has to happen hand in hand with the government. We can advocate for our patients, we can fight for what is right. We can promise not to give up… or give in… or get burnt out. That is what we can do for our patients. For health care is your, my, and their BASIC human right.
Fight for those who can’t.
Advocate for your beliefs.
Give others your all.