Claire Michalanney, a nurse and administrator from Adelaide, is volunteering with Bushulo Health Centre, Ethiopia. This is her latest update.
Bushulo Health Centre is run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and is located on the shores of Lake Hawassa, one of the smaller lakes in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Hawassa is a large town, about 300kms from Addis Ababa. Unlike the picture of dust and desert that seems to come most readily to mind about Ethiopia, the countryside is quite lush and green through most of the year. The people of Bushulo find work farming cattle, goats, vegetables, maize, bananas and some coffee and fishing. Many of the very poor women support themselves by cutting grass to sell for animal feed or collecting bundles of sticks which they carry on their backs to market to sell for firewood. The Health Centre directly employs nurses, cleaners, guards, groundsmen and drivers and indirectly supports sales of vegetables and coffee to our workers.
Although the altitude should reduce the instance of malaria, the proximity of the lake and the heavy rains which leave vast pools of water during the wet season considerably increase morbidity and mortality. Gastro-intestinal diseases arising from unclean water or poor hygiene afflict babies, children and adults particularly those who are malnourished. TB is common, as is HIV which carries with it a great deal of stigma as well as myths regarding cures. Along with the common disorders encountered in the West, many less common diseases may be treated such as rabies, tetanus, leprosy and a variety of parasitic infections.
The Centre has inpatient and outpatient programs and a large obstetric unit, which conducts about 200 deliveries per month. The Safe Motherhood outreach program has reduced the number of maternal deaths in the villages, as our workers and the village mothers we have trained encourage women to come to the hospital for delivery of their babies. This has improved considerably over recent years although many women still only come when they are in difficulties. Two obstetricians are on call to conduct caesarean sections if necessary. The centre’s outreach workers educate about hygiene, maintaining clean water, preventing malaria and nourishing mothers and babies. Vaccination programs are conducted and communities are supported financially to build latrines.
My role has been to help improve the quality of nursing care in the hospital, assist with the management of pharmaceutical supplies and to provide support for the Administrator in the management of this complex range of services.
My hope is that I will be able to develop some skills among the senior nurses who will, in turn, seek to improve the skills of the nurses they lead, as well as the way they care for patients. I also aim to help establish a framework that will assist the Administrator and the Management Team to achieve the Centre’s objectives.
I hope that my efforts will result in some improvement in knowledge and skills for the workers at the Centre and through them, better care for the local people who utilise their services.