As the rickety pickup rolled in on the narrow village track, I had 2 thoughts bumping around. One, the nerves and excitement of starting our second clinic. Did we bring all the equipment? Is our young nurse going to be OK? Is the door even going to be unlocked?
And Two. Who is OJ Maxswel? – The hut right next to the clinic.
Don’t worry, this blog is not about OJ Maxswel.
I try to be objective and use head over heart when selecting new clinic sites, but my heart has broken a bit for this place. Ocim needs a clinic, it really does. If you get sick there, even accessing bad quality health care is difficult. And the place is gorgeous. It’s the closest you’ll get to an idyllic village, with pigeon houses, traditional granaries, and decorated huts. Even in dry season I was captivated.
But my heart breaking doesn’t mean that the clinic is going to become sustainable. It’s a 6 month trial, to see whether the demand from the community will be enough to keep the place going. There’s a whole lot of reasons the thing should work. But there are almost many why it won’t.
Why Ocim Outreach Clinic will work
1) When I assessed Ocim, I asked a bunch of locals how many hours it took to walk to the nearest health center. I couldn’t get a number, but some people said “We leave to go there just after the sun rises, and we get back just before it sets”
2) It costs $5NZ for transport alone to access any medical care. Our clinic costs $2 at most
3) Reverend Ojok, the local anglican minister is an publicity machine. On the way back from the clinic he taped 3 posters promoting the health center on the walls of shops and talked to everyone he saw about it. Legend.
4) The community is proud of their new clinic. They want to make it work.
5) The clinic has got instant cred and trust by being run by the Church of Uganda. Our nurse Naume is a Christian, and the community knows she’ll pray with them if they want that.
6) My heart says it will
7) Because “OJ Maxswel, king of the king” is there. What more do you need?
Why it won’t
1) People are very poor. Nearly everybody there is a subsistence farmer. One dollar for kids and two dollars for adults may not seem like much to be treated for serious diseases, but for Ocim, it still might be too much.
2) The population is relatively sparse compared to around other clinics
3) It’s not on a main road, or in trade hub. We’re using the only available iron roof building in the area. This means the clinic is not very public and visible, and we can only treat locals, not people who are passing through.
4) The day to day existence of a small clinic like this is fragile. One robbery, one fire, and one aberrant guy harassing our nurse and it could be enough to sink the ship.
5) My heart is often wrong
From huts within sight of the health center, two mothers came with their kids while we were still unpacking the truck. Both had high fevers. One had malaria, and had a seizure in the morning. The other had a large skin infection on their right butt cheek. Both mothers had been trying to wait out their child’s illness, unable or unwilling to pay the large transport cost to the nearest health center. Both if the kids will now be fine. That’s why we’re here.
And the second thing on my mind? Here he is, OJ Maxwell himself. “King of the King”.