Friday, May 17, 2013


The view from Ha Mafa
St. James is responsible for 7 rural health posts and clinics in the Mantsonyane area. These clinics provide basic medical services to the people living around them. The idea of these clinics is to make it easier for Basotho to access healthcare without having to travel far distances to the nearest hospital, which in this case is St. James. Clinical services range from routine treatment of cuts and scrapes, to distribution of drugs, to HIV/AIDS counseling. It’s quite a large range of services. Some of these clinics are close to the hospital, and some are very far away. A doctor visits each of these clinics on a monthly basis, but for the most part, day-to-day treatment is done by clinical nurses living at the health centers. During my 4 months here (hard to believe it’s been 4 months already!), I hadn’t had a chance to visit any of the clinics until this week. I got to tag along on two different trips out to two of the seven clinics.

Ha Mafa Health Post
On Tuesday, I joined the PHC (Primary Health Care) Coordinator and the Pharmacy director on a trip to the health post in Ha Mafa. Ha Mafa is about a 30-40 minute car trip over some rough mountain roads. It definitely requires a 4x4 to get out there. This wasn’t just a normal visit to the clinic, it was for the monthly vaccination clinic for children under 5. This particular vaccination clinic is a government-funded project. Vaccinations are free to all who show up and register. There were easily over 100 people waiting with their children when we arrived in Ha Mafa. This is a really good turnout, and it’s a testament to the hard work the village health workers are doing in Ha Mafa.  All sorts of vaccinations were given out. Polio, Hep B, Measels, etc. Pretty much what a kid gets in the states. Everyone that showed up to the clinic was given lunch by a Catholic ministry from a neighboring village, Ha Auray. People are much more inclined to show up if there’s food provided. I think its great that there’s some ecumenicalism going on to help get these kids vaccinated!

The PHC Coordinator

Those were not small needles...

Everyone queuing for lunch

The Pharmacy Director (Standing) & one of the
Ha Mafa nurses

These girls were so excited to have their photo taken

Ha Popa Clinic
On Wednesday, I once again joined the PHC coordinator on a new journey out to Ha Popa. Now if I described the road to Ha Mafa as “rough,” I’m not sure how to describe the road to Ha Popa. I think using the word “road” might not even be applicable. I guess if we use “road” in the literal sense of the word, as in “a path connecting one place to another,” it’ll do. This “road” was absolutely ridiculous. It took about 2 hours to get out to Ha Popa, and during that 2 hours the car didn’t stop shaking once. If I had been driving, we would have driven off the mountain within the first 30 minutes! I took some great video, but the Internet is far too slow to upload it, so you’ll just have to suffice with a photo for now.

The "road" to Ha Popa

PHC Coordinator in the Ha Popa exam room
The trip to Ha Popa was a regularly scheduled medical officer visit. Usually this means that a doctor is visiting the clinic, but there was only one doctor on duty at the hospital that day, so we had to go without him. We also brought out some medical supplies and drugs to restock the clinic. Now everyone in the village knows what day the doctor comes because it’s the same day every month. So when we arrived with only the PHC coordinator, the driver, and myself it was assumed that I was a new doctor coming out to work. As you may know, this was not the case. After quickly clearing that misconception up, the PHC coordinator and the clinic staff got to work seeing patients. There were roughly 50 patients that showed up that day. I made myself busy with taking photos and walking through the village. Unfortunately, I’m not very useful when it comes to things of the medical nature.

It was really great to finally make it out to the clinics and see the PHC program in action. These clinics are really the first link in the medical chain here in Lesotho. If you make medical care accessible to the people, they’re more likely to use it. People are much more likely to take a 20 minute walk to a clinic than they are to take a 6 hour walk to St. James or another hospital. With the PHC approach, it’s all about getting people in to seek medical attention. Sometimes that 20-minute walk might be for a simple cut or bruise, but sometimes that walk makes the difference between life and death. An early diagnosis of a serious medical condition almost always betters the chances of treatment and recovery. The clinics can diagnose these serious conditions, like TB, Diabetes, High blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, and refer someone to St. James for proper care. I'm so glad I got to visit some of these amazing centers and see how they work. I’m hoping to make it to all 7 centers before my year runs out, but the coming winter might prevent that!

The last brave flower of Autumn

Quite the sunset

That’s it for now! My calendar is telling me that I have less than 3 months left in Lesotho! What!? That doesn’t seem right. Sala hantle! 

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