The administration was amazing and very accommodating and I made life-long friends among them. There was never a moment that I was in there company that I felt unsafe or frightened. The residence was great and despite the lack of infrastructure of the nation everything worked to the extent that I could feel sanitary and relaxed. The food and the kitchen staff were great. The way to really make it an amazing experience though was to put yourself out there and make as many friends as you possibly could. I am glad to know that I now have friends from all over the world. I loved the experience and found a new love for Kenya and its people that I never thought I would have.
During my time in Kenya, I learned so much about how politics and cultural differences affect healthcare delivery and quality. Growing up in America, I don’t often consider the cost or availability of healthcare. Resources such as technology, equipment and supplies seem readily available to everyone. I trust that my healthcare providers possess the knowledge, skill and experience to preform medical miracles. In Kenya, I learned that my high healthcare expectations might be idealistic and non-universal.
The Kenyan perspective on wellness, hygiene, cleanliness, disease transmission and triage differ greatly from what I see in the United States. The healthcare workers I encountered in Kenya are every bit as smart, compassionate and hardworking as those in America, but they work shorthanded and ill equipped. Nevertheless, the Kenyan people receiving medical care are less entitled than the American patient is. The faith, trust and gratitude Kenyan patients show inspires me.
People in the U.S. often die from non-communicable, preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer due to our sedentary and abundant lifestyles. In Kenya, preventable diseases are also a serious issue. However, overeating and lack of physical activity isn’t what’s killing most Kenyans. Poor sanitation and lack of affordable medications contribute to the prevalence of communicable, preventable diseases such as malaria and HIV in a country already up against daunting challenges to delivering basic healthcare.
Although the American healthcare system suffers from healthcare disparities, African healthcare appears even more imbalanced. As in the U.S., the African population’s health needs and access to care vary across different parts of the country. Socioeconomic status greatly affects the quality and accessibility of healthcare. The government is Kenya’s largest provider of healthcare. However, the public healthcare system is plagued by staffing and supply shortages.
These shortages directly and indirectly impact patient outcomes. The average African citizen can’t afford to go to a private facility where qualified providers and adequate equipment are more available. Attaining equitable health services requires run-down public health care infrastructures to be revamped, management practices to be improved, priorities to be set for accountable and transparent use of resources and more skilled healthcare workers to be trained and retained (Benatar, 2013).
When I entered the Coast Province General Hospital on my first day in Mombasa, I was surprised by the shortage of healthcare professionals and the condition of the facility. This hospital is the second largest government hospital in Kenya and serves the entire coast region. The harbor view from the hospital is splendid, but the facility is sadly unkempt. The garbage receptacles outside the hospital are overflowing. The water supply inside the hospital is unpredictable. The equipment is worn and in poor repair. Healthcare workers are trying to keep up with the demand for care, but the supply of workers and resources keeps them continually behind.
Some of my experiences in Kenya changed my perspective on global healthcare. In America, the labor and delivery and postpartum areas of the hospital are happy and flourishing. Mothers are comfortable and babies are thriving and secure. However, when I entered labor and delivery in Kenya, the scene was distressing. One small room holds several delivery suites separated only by curtains. Patients aren’t able to labor or birth with dignity and privacy. They hear each other’s painful cries. Anesthesia isn’t common, so the area is loud and chaotic. Cleanliness isn’t a priority either.
Along with the grim situation in labor and delivery, Kenyan hospital nurseries host a number of abandoned babies. Mothers leave babies for various reasons in African countries, but regardless of the situation the babies’ health and development is at risk. These destitute babies also burden an already depleted healthcare system. Seeing babies without families and homes and mothers without hope tugged at my heartstrings and changed my perspective on life and priorities.
I witnessed a new mother lose her life as a healthy baby boy started his life without a family. To me, this situation seemed preventable. The mom with Placenta Previa lost a lot of blood during a long, difficult labor. Late in the process, the doctor opted for a caesarian section. We desperately performed CPR to save the young women, but blood loss and fatigue won in the end and the mother died leaving a baby (and probably more children at home) with no one to nurture and love them.
Rivaling the despair in the birthing area, the intensive care section of the hospital dismayed me. In the middle of the night, this area hosted people who were losing a hard-fought futile battle. Quality care end of life care isn’t a priority. Comfort and dignity are lacking too. The residents seemed to have surrendered to an overburdened system. I felt heartsick seeing the desperation in this place.
As previously mentioned, too few doctors and other professionals manage Kenya’s healthcare. According to Naicker, Plange-Rhule, Tutt, & Eastwood (2009), the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least two physicians for every ten thousand people (p. 62). In Kenya, one doctor per ten thousand people serves the community (p. 60). In many African countries, doctors, nurses, and other health professionals leave for countries better provided with health workers, technology and medical supplies. Also, two-thirds of African countries have one or less medical schools (Hagopian, Thompson, Fordyce, Johnson, & Hart, 2004).
To help with the medical worker shortage in Africa, quality in-country training or incentives to return home after foreign training might increase the supply of professionals. Also, recruiting medical students unlikely to leave the country may help. Africans are smart and motivated enough to take care of their own healthcare needs. Establishing quality medical and nursing schools in Africa would boost the morale of healthcare workers and decrease the chances qualified personnel would migrate to other more developed countries (Naicker, Plange-Rhule, Tutt, & Eastwood, 2009).
Although most of the doctors I encountered in Africa, are smart, educated and experienced, according to Chatterjee, Datta, & Sriganesh, (2012) lack of healthcare information and poor infrastructure contribute to healthcare disparity and poor outcomes in the country. Increasing the number of healthcare workers is not a permanent solution to this problem. Funding and resources to initiate and sustain the training of medical personnel in Africa would offer a more long-term solution (Chatterjee, Datta, & Sriganesh, 2012).
Nevertheless, despite these discouraging scenes, hope prevails in Kenya. People are helping. A caring medical community is working hard to improve the system. Africans are grateful for their lives and health. The optimism and faith of the African people is motivating. The Kenyans exhibit incredible strength and courage. My experience in Kenya strengthened my resolve to pursue a career in healthcare. The perspective I gained in Kenya encouraged me to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to improve healthcare both at home and abroad. With my privileges and opportunities, I know I can help.