After this, I traveled to Ofua to see a health center with one clinical officer, one nurse, one midwife, one lab assistant, five volunteers, three translators (the area is home to multiple languages), one guard, and one janitor. This single facility serves nearly 6,000 people, including an estimated 2,000 people who have to travel to this center because it’s the closest one.
This health center offers many services, including family planning, pre-and post-natal care, immunizations, laboratory services, and rapid testing for malaria, typhoid, HIV, and more. They can do minor surgical procedures, incision and drainage (commonly abbreviated as I&D) and treat common conditions.
A big thing done is weekly outreach, where staff go to central areas in the neighborhood to provide standard care and testing and make referrals for anyone with a more complicated case. They can even arrange transportation to the nearby hospital for severe cases. The services are available to anyone who shows up at no cost to the community. The team also does quarterly dialogues in the community to get their feedback on the services provided and what they would like from the health center or the community popup events.
For the first half of 2023, the staff’s community efforts contributed to reducing diarrhea through their WASH awareness campaigns and connected with area schools to immunize students and community members. Currently, they are working to reduce home deliveries. But, the facility doesn’t have a delivery room, and the nearest one is far away, so many women give birth at home, putting them at the highest risk of infection and even death.
I learned that a new challenge is appropriately dealing with mental health cases. Because the staff is so limited and not everyone is trained in mental healthcare, they cannot address all the cases they come across, especially if the person has special needs. This, along with infrastructure improvements like solar power, fencing, waste management, and transportation, are things they hope to get to make life safer and better for their community.
The facility is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and can have anywhere from 80 – 100 visitors a day. When we went, Dr. Fred, the Clinical Officer, had already seen 70 people by 3 pm!