Orientation or disorientation
On arrival at Queens hospital Blantyre Jo, Vicky and myself waited nervously outside matron’s office for our month long timetable. Once in hand we were off to our respective departments. Vicky and I found ourselves in paediatric A & E. An enormous room with several smaller rooms off it. The sister gave us a brief tour and we were off. First stop triage, this is where the parents, predominantly mothers, brought their children to be assessed by a couple of nurses. The first thing that strikes you is the sheer number of children being brought in, the second is the quiet compliance. Not a single word of complaint from patient or parent. This all seemed a little ad hoc and Vicky and I found ourselves pointing out children that we felt a little concerned about. One of whom was nearly 3 and weighed less that 5.7 kg!! Malnutrition is a real problem and leads to many deaths. The nurses are trying to pick all these children up and they have quite a good screening programme.
Later that day we found ourselves in resus with a very poorly 2 day old. Very shortly after arrival the baby stopped breathing and I found myself assisting with resuscitation. He clearly needed to be ventilated but there were no beds and no equipment. It all seemed a little hopeless but to all of our surprise the baby was still alive the following morning. I was delighted that my A & E experience didn’t let me down but I have to be honest it is far removed from my work as a specialist nurse.
The following days have been spent on the paediatric unit and in particular in high dependency. On arrival Vicky and I just stood open mouthed and clearly in shock – nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. I have included some photos because whatever I say will not fully explain the chaos that confronted us. This large room was full of ‘cots’, wooden with only 4 inch sides, they had a mattress, no linen and up to 3 plus babies per cot. There were other mattresses on the floor where larger children were sleeping. All the families were with the children, including siblings which all added to the sense of chaos. Shortly after we arrived a woman in a uniform was barking instructions to the parents and they duly left the ward with sick children on their backs. Not a murmur of complaint! Two cleaners then came in and mopped the floor and wiped over the mattresses. Sounds good and this was done twice a day. However, the water was filthy and so was everything else in the ward. The cockroaches were running wild. It is very distressing seeing flies and cockroaches crawling all over sick babies in HDU!!
On our first day we saw two avoidable deaths of little children. It costs a lot of money for the children to go to the mortuary so the hospital lets the parents take the children home. The dead baby is strapped to the mothers back and off they set to catch the bus home!!! Bus drivers are not very happy about this and will kick the mothers off the bus if they find them so they try carefully to wrap the child up so as not to be noticed. Shocking barely covers it……