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Patients Must Have Patience to See Doctors in Tanzania

March 20, 2008
Patients must have patience to see doctors in Tanzania posted by: Colleen Locke , Producer written by: Bazi Kanani , Anchor/Reporter created: 12/10/2007 12:00:33 AM Last updated: 12/12/2007 5:52:35 PM Patients must have patience to see doctors in Tanzania. 9NEWS at 4 p.m. 12/12/07 KUSA - They all wear the white coats, but one of the doctors in the group is not accustomed to the surroundings. Dr. Elibariki Nnko is a visitor from Tanzania and is amazed at much of what he sees. "Here it's like luxurious because everything is available," he said. In September, Dr. Nnko visited several Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Colorado. On this day at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette, he's training on equipment being donated to his hospital in Tanzania. He works at Selian Lutheran Hospital near the city of Arusha. It's one of the best hospitals in the entire country, but still nothing like an American hospital. "We are chronically short of the materials, the drugs, the supplies that we need to give the level of care that we are capable of doing," said Selian Executive Director Dr. Mark Jacobson. Jacobson is an American doctor who has been living in Tanzania for more than 25 years, even raising his three daughters there. Because of his work at Selian, the hospital has grown each year, but the growth never seems fast enough. "Particularly at this time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has put incredible demands on the health care systems," said Jacobson. Jacobson explains that AIDS is now the leading cause of admission to the hospital and consumes about half of their annual budget. In urban areas in Tanzania, about 8 percent of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS. Each year, tens-of-thousands of people get care at Selian hospital which has 120 beds with thin mattresses. There's a small laboratory where without much new technology, tests are done mostly by hand. Results can take a long time. Only one room has heat. A small space heater helps warm the room where the hospital keeps its only two incubators. Sometime two or three babies will have to share an incubator. There is no cooling system at the hospital, which is a bigger problem in a nation near the equator. Tanzania is where patients must have patience to see a doctor. In a country of 38 million people, there are only about 2,000 doctors. "So our doctor to patient ratio is 1 to 19,000 people, compared to most urban areas in the U.S. where that would be 1 to 300 people," Jacobson explained. A brand new hospital is under construction in Arusha, where Selian will be able to serve more people. Outside the hospital sit large containers filled with used equipment from American hospitals. They are there thanks to people like Dr. Jeff Rose and Jill DiSalvo Rose who started the African Health and Hospitals Foundation. "We hear on the news and see all the horrible things that have happened in Africa, but Africa is a magical place. And everyone we have ever spoken with who has traveled over there has come back completely changed if they get the chance to spend time with the people," said Rose. "Our concern is that these people get the kind of health care and services they deserve as human beings." At Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette, Dr. Nnko said, "My main concern when going back home is the need to train." When he leaves the elaborate facilities here in Colorado, he returns to his hospital hoping that with each day and with each donation, lives will get a little better. For more about the African Health and Hospitals Foundation which is working to get equipment and supplies to African hospitals, visit www.AHHFoundation.org. 9NEWS anchor Bazi Kanani is on the board of this organization. You may also contact her directly at bazi.kanani@9news.com. For more about Selian Lutheran Hospital in Tanzania, visit http://selianlh.habari.co.tz/. The O'Brien School for the Maasai has founding members here in Denver. Learn more at www.obrienschool.org. (Copyright KUSA*TV, All Rights Reserved)