October 8, 2007

A "Tour" of the Itpini Clinic

Inspired by my fellow missionary Kate, I thought a description of the clinic where I spend most of my working days might be appropriate.

The clinic is a rectangle, probably ten feet across by twenty feet long, with a low sloping roof, and no power or running water. When you walk in the door, on the right is a bench where the patients wait to be seen and the scale we use to weigh patients, mostly TB and HIV positive patients.

Along the wall to the left are our medical records. All patients have a 5 by 8 inch index card on which we record the date they visited, what their ailment was, and what the treatment was. Some patients have several index cards, stapled together, that might contain ten or twelve years of their medical history. If a patient has a sexually transmitted infection, is receiving birth control from us, has TB, is an infant, or any of a variety of other factors, they get filed – with more paperwork – in various other places.

After the medical records along this wall is a storage cabinet and then there’s one of our examination tables. There are curtains that can be used but mostly the patients sit down and tell the nurse their problems without much privacy. This is where the bulk of the clinic work happens and our two nurses – Jenny and Dorothy – see up to 60 patients a day between them.

On the back wall of the clinic is more storage, all carefully labeled and organized by Jenny. There are all kinds of pills, pregnancy tests, HIV tests, birth control, emergency response tools (like suction and oxygen), TB meds, and so on and so forth.

Working back along the far long wall is another examination table and then our long counter that is sort of my home base. After the nurse writes the ailment and treatment on the index card, it comes to me or another volunteer, where I put the information into our daily log of patient visits and meds distributed. Also on this counter are the pill boxes for TB patients, who stop by once a day (in an ideal world) to take their pills. We also have a variety of interesting books here, including several on HIV/AIDS, the Xhosa language, the Bible, and, for a good measure, a copy of the South African constitution, just to be sure, I guess, exactly what rights (e.g. to education, health, job) it guarantees that our patients our missing out on. Also on this counter are the industrial-size bottles of cough syrup, laxatives, calamine lotion, and so on we hand out on a daily basis. Then we’re back to the scale and the wall nearest the door.

Running down the middle of the clinic is a low table that stores important bandages, gloves, and so on. It also has our water supply, a large bucket we fill up every morning and wash our hands with, give to our patients to take pills, and so on. At the end of this table is a handy little cart with more bandaging material that provides a third work area between the two exam tables and where I often squeeze between the two nurses and bandage the burns and cuts people walk in with all the time.
Our bandaging cart.


Greg The Bus Driver said...

Jody, I just saw the photo's of you teaching the kids how to do the "stick out and control your tongue by pulling your ears and nose" routine. I hate to tell you but I think that you learned that one from me. We went to a parish "sing" and bread/soup supper last night and several people were talking about you and your blog. Keep up the good work.
Greg Macdonald