Today was just one of those days. And this is not fiction. I ‘killed’ a patient and smiled. ‘Smiled at it’ or ‘smiled about it’ I am not so sure. I smiled.
You see, as it usually is supposed to happen in this part of the world, I had to weigh between two competing emergencies. I had to make the choice of who lives and so the other dies. Dies like a dry leaf in the firm grip of man. Into ashes and blown away by the wind. To nowhere in particular.
My country allocates less than 6% of its total budget to healthcare. As a result, most hospitals do lack the equipment meant to save lives. Doctors and nurses remain largely unmotivated. A larger budgetary portion is allocated for road construction and an even larger chunk towards paying of our leaders salaries (entertainment allowances and other important similar allowances)
Would you mind knowing that while our leaders would never sit down to discuss increment in allocation of funds to the Healthcare sector, they frequently do emergency late night meetings to increase their pay. Cool?. That’s why we think they are the most hardworking people on the planet. Imagine meeting upto as late as midnight. They deserve it. And even if they don’t, my fellow countrymen approve of it. They call it sovereignty. With a quick rejoinder you will hear, not murmurs but yells of twitterati #someonetellthewest … followed by you-know –what. We are cool though. It’s called the price of democracy.
Back to my office, I look at my tray. The emergency drugs have expired , at least we do have those expired ones. Other categories are out of stock. What do you mean you are surprised? When you do come with your relative requiring emergency management like acute asthmatic attack, come with your own drugs. Better still we will send you to buy them 21 kilometers away. That makes us very religious people. Deity takes charge as you take the 21 kilometer run to save the life of your beloved. Some make it. Some don’t. Darwinian natural selection. I bet it’s a very natural way of ridding the world of asthmatics.
My leaders are also awesome. All of them. They promise big things at the glare of international media gallery so that the world would think we are doing just fine. Everything is about perception, they retort. Even as families bury able bodied young men and surviving infant mortality is categorized as a developmental milestone. Pregnancy is a 9 month (or less) time bomb, literally- if it ‘detonates’ and you get a ruptured uterus, pray dear, pray.
I hope we are on the same page.
My people are cool about it though. In no near future do I see the government allocating 15% of its budget to keep us alive. There are more important obligations. Like building roads and making the country look beautiful and developed. For the outside world to see. Never mind it was ranked as one of the most dangerous places to be born. Not even Syria or post genocide Rwanda. Kenya. The country that is also a hub of peace in the horn of Africa. People die rather peacefully here. Who wouldn’t smile.
Today I did kill a patient and smiled. I had two who needed the oxygen cylinder. Both critical. Both terminal if they do not get the life cylinder. I tossed a coin to chose. There was only one oxygen cylinder. The relatives agreed that I was fair. One lived. And so the other died. I smiled.
I had saved 50% of my patients.