Saturday, August 10, 2019

Wake up world: stop tolerating harmful medical practice...

As you likely know, I am a qualified and registered medical doctor working alongside national staff in a facility that is run by a UK foundation and supported and registered by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, providing outpatient medical care to sick children below 16 years of age. The severity of illness we deal with ranges from a child with a runny nose to a child who is unconscious due to severe malaria. Regardless of the situation, our team acts based on our training and experience. Yes, we are forever learning, but through years of training, we have been equipped to handle such situations. I cannot even begin to imagine managing critically ill children with no medical training.

I am shocked but not too surprised to read the story of Bach, who according to this article, went to Uganda as a 20 year old highschool graduate with no medical training, and ended up running a centre for children with severe acute malnutrition for five years, performing medical procedures herself. If these facts are true, this is wrong on so many levels. And sadly, stories like this are a reality in many developing countries. 

This would not be the first time a possibly well-meaning, but na├»ve or ignorant, individual sets out to help others but puts lives at more risk. Some might call it the White Saviour Complex. Whatever you call it, it is appalling and needs to stop. Whether it is foreigners coming in to “help” or nationals "helping" their own people, if they are working outside of their realm of expertise or doing more harm than good; STOP THEM. If the facts are accurate, it is also infuriating that Bach's friends, family and Board did not intervene but applauded from the side lines.

I don’t have more details than what is included in the article linked above, but I know this is a global issue and I believe we can and must do better. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to those we care for. The world needs to wake up. So, here are some reminders...

Common sense: 
  • Don’t do what you’re not qualified to do.
  • Always make sure that what you are doing is legal.

Responsible humanitarian aid: 
  • Don’t think YOU can save faulty systems or the world for that matter.  You may be able to help, but you are by no means THE solution. 
  • Work alongside local authorities and nationals on a long-term sustainable and coordinated response. 
  • Do not do your own thing.

Appropriate support and sponsoring:
  • Know who and what you are supporting.
  • Make sure the charities you support are law abiding.
  • If you know that someone is working in a capacity overseas that would not be acceptable in your own country, strongly advise them to stop.
  • Advise people you support overseas to work alongside nationals who know far more about their setting and context than a foreigner ever will.

Wake up call for local authorities in developing countries: 
  • Supervise and monitor all of the so-called health facilities and professionals. Put clinical governance systems in place. I know that in Sierra Leone, there are “clinics”, pharmacies and healthcare workers working outside of their legal boundaries, providing potentially harmful care. Some do more harm than good and should be shut down. Why tolerate it at someone else's expense? 

Building a good health system does not only mean improving standards and ensuring high quality care but it also entails regulation, which means shutting down illegal and/or unsafe health facilities and revoking licenses of those who do more harm than good.

#wecandobetter #sierraleone #healthcare #clinicalgovernance #healthsystems #partnership #collaboration  #regulation #moreregulationneeded #ethics #healthramblings #commonsense #dogoodnotharm #supervisionandmonitoring

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~