Thursday, May 13, 2010
Public Health Center
In a previous post I had mentioned a rather interesting experience that I had in a Public Health Center here. The way that health care works in Nicaragua is that everything is free, yet being the second poorest country in the western hemisphere right after Haiti, you can imagine that it's not the best quality of health care. They often don't have medicines or materials in stock so the people end up having to pay after all to purchase whatever is lacking.
There are several public health centers throughout the capital and each center meets the needs of the people in it's surrounding area. The health centers are where you go for a doctor's appointment, immunizations, etc. If you need to see a specialist or do certain testing you to go a hospital. The health center is always full of people and a guaranteed several hours of waiting before seeing the doctor. Sometimes it can even take a whole day to get in and out. The buildings are in poor condition, no a/c, limited seating and I could keep on describing but think it would be best not to.
Anyways, I was told by my doctor that I needed to get a tetanus shot. Supposedly all pregnant woman here get a tetanus shot. I read online and it's not like that in the U.S. I had a tetanus shot a little over 2 years ago and U.S. doctors say it's not necessary. Yet, I began to think a bit and maybe these Nicaraguan doctors recommend getting the shot because it's necessary here. The Nicaraguan doctors know the Nicaraguan people and their needs best. I wanted to apply U.S. ways and knowledge, but I think is this case the Nicaraguan way may be the best.
So, Jader and I headed off to the health center to get my tetanus shot and a shot for H1N1 because they're giving it to all pregnant women. Of course it was packed, halls lined with people, and we almost turned around and left due to the ammount of people. We thought we might as well ask since we're here and they directed us to an empty room with a guy sitting behind a desk and this is where they give immunizations. I showed him my pregnancy control card that all pregnant women have in Nicaragua as proof that I'm pregnant because sometimes people still don't believe me. :( I think my belly is just now starting to show. He explained that they don't have the H1N1 shot but they do have the tetanus.
He asked where we live, and Jader told him the name of the neighborhood. Then I watched as a nurse approached me with the injection. I was pleased to see that it was a disposable needle with a plastic protective cap and in a sealed bag. I thought to myself "This is a good sign." She approached me while I was standing in front of the desk, gave me a jab and that was that.
I was suprised that they didn't write down my name. They didn't ask health history questions, allergies, nothing. I filled out no form and showed no proof that we actually live in the neighborhood where we said we live. Also, the shot was given while standing up in the middle of the room in front of their main desk. I don't know how they keep records without recording any information.
We were in and out in a flash and despite the conditions and different protocol of doing things I was actually quite pleased with the experience. It's a different way of doing things, but I'm learning that things don't always have to be done the American way.