Dr Samdemar C. Arias is a volunteer paediatrician in Nyangao, Tanzania. He is helping develop the skills of local clinicians and improving patient care. Here he talks about the urgent need for more qualified physicians to share their skills in Tanzania.
Underskilled and over-worked
There is a serious lack of trained paediatricians in countries like Tanzania. Those who treat children here are more likely to be assistant clinical officers, who haven’t gone through anything like the training we do at home. Here it’s just one or two years at collegiate level, and already they’re given clinical work.
Clinicians just ask a couple of questions; they don’t even touch patients before sending them for treatment.
Most of the time it will take between 12 to 48 hours before a patient is referred properly. That means a patient has to wait until the next day to see a doctor on their rounds.
Sadly, there is preferential treatment for adults. To give you an example, X-rays are not performed on children. Babies are often not named until they have survived [the first stages of life].
Paediatricians are necessary to identify high risk infants and to continue iterating and embedding standard operating procedures for care, especially for 0-5 year-olds.
The impact a volunteer can make
Despite the enormity of the task, being here creates an atmosphere of care and competence. It’s very deep when somebody connects with you and sees that you did make a difference to their child, their wife, their baby.
The change I have experienced is in how I work with people here. You can’t get angry at people: you start to adapt, you try to accept that they’re doing their job, doing the best they can. It’s about being encouraging.
One person doing his job right can make all the difference
Working here I’ve had a change of perspective – At home in the Philippines there’s plenty of available doctors and medicines, you tend to lose sight of the fact that just being there is important. People tend to take it for granted.
Here, you are reminded that even just one person doing his job right can make all the difference.
Healthcare professionals are urgently needed, find out more: