Friday 2nd June
The solar panels are still causing some anguish as they are still in Lusaka – there was to be another twist later on Thursday which I will recount later.
We arrived at 10 hrs for our appointment with Sr. Juunza. The receptionist greeted us and informed us that Sr. Juunza was not around, but would be back on Monday! Some years back I had an appointment with someone from the hospital which I had arranged the afternnon before. After about an hour I asked, and was told he was not yet in. After some further time passed I enquired again and established that he wouldn't be in that day, because he was on a course. I checked on the course duration and was informed that the course was three years long – I met the guy three years later, by which time he had decided to leave the hospital!
In this instance the issue was easily resolved and Sr. Joyce agreed to step in and show us around the hospital. It was good to have a proper tour with Ben. It is a while since I visited all the wards. I sometimes visit patients, but rarely touch some departments.
The hospital has a number of new buildings – funded by different organisations. The Japanese government funded a new Radiography department with ultrsound scanners and x-ray machines. The Surgery has been rebuilt.
Hands Around the World has been involved in a number of projects over the years providing funding and volunteers. In 2003 we started building the ICU - it was opened in 2006 or 2007. We extended the Male and Children's Wards. When I came in 2003, men were on mattresses under the beds and children slept two or three to a cot. By extending the wards - moving the walls to the edge of the verandas, a considerable increase in ward space was produced. On this visit the number of patients seemed to be quite low in all wards. By my reckoning this is success!! I have also claimed that the most succesful hospital is one without any patients – because the people are all well!! Throwing patients out of hospital as fast as possible only to readmit them doesn't seem the best healthcare! So often we measure the number of patients seen, assuming that is better than measuring those not seen!
Malaria here is now rare! This no doubt has a big impact on the number of patient admissions and the staff workload. When there is a case of malaria they check where the patient is from and if they are in the catchment area they treat the whole family. A big exercise has taken place – particularly in the Southern Province of Zambia - to educate people, hand out mosquito nets and spray the houses. This appears to have worked very well and reduced the incidence of the disease dramatically. In my book this is good healthcare!
We caught up on all major departments and finished by being shown around the IV (intravenous fluid) production unit. Monze Hospital has been producing it's own fluids since 1984! The machines are new and high tech, but the process is still essentially the same. We were given plastic hats as we entered the unit. Warren, who first showed me around in 2003, described the process and showed us the production and storage facilities. Ben asked how long the fluids would last and was told they had to be used within a year. Warren added that they are usually used within a day! Having their own production is very valuable because whenever fluids are needed they can be provided. This isn't the case at many Zambian hospitals.
During our visit their were many familiar faces – though again quite a few were new. One I didn't immediately recognise told me, as I guessed, that she was Mrs.Bentoe. I am always embarrassed that I fail to recognise some people year after year – and she is one of them. I have a disability when it comes to recognising faces – here in Africa where men have shaved or very short hair and women change their hair or wigs regularly, I find it even more challenging. Mrs Bentoe, as she described herself, was my good friend Bentoe's wife. We worked very closely at the hospital on the computers and our knowledge and skills complemented each other very well. He was a stalwart of the Catholic Church and our outlook on life was very simlar. Tragically, while my wife was in Zambia in 2006, Bentoe was killed in a car crash. He is a terrible loss to everyone who knew him and we all miss him a lot.
We returned home to get the message from Fr. Timothy that the agent had told him that the bill for collecting the solar lighting was 9,500 ZMW – about £860. My understanding was that solar lighting for schools was exempt from duty . We understood a small charge was due to the agent for clearing but nothing of this order of magnitude. It seems that an error might have occurred in the paperwork and it is being investigated!! I have no personal experience of importing goods, but those we are working with have been involved many times before. However, getting all the bits and pieces correctly completed and sorting out all the bureacracy seems difficult. Just as well we won't face any such problems after we leave the EU!!!
By the time I had made a few calls I had little time to get to the school to work on computers. I called by anyway and arranged to return on Monday.
Diven was after a discussion with me. We talked for a while and made additional arrangements to try to resolve an issue or two which had arisen.
I have looked around for Deana but she is not to be seen! Diven has met her this visit and I met her friend Precious who is now at the hospital nursing.
On the way back from seeing Diven I met up with Jennipher and confirmed our visit for Saturday. I also met a girl who said she was Nancy's sister – it seemed Nancy had mentioned our encounter the other day. She told me her name was Christine or Mercy – she prefers to be called Christine!
I met Mr Lungu who has retired as a driver at the hospital and is waiting for his gratuity – like most government workers they have to wait years – and many die before it is paid!
So today is Friday!! I was going to walk to Obert's house where his mother has a playgroup and a club for vulnerable people. However, I remembered that I had a few items to take with me – Ben was therefore spared a walk and we hired Obert and his taxi.
After greeting the children and hearing them sing us a welcome song we went outside where I had a strange looking bag with me. I unzipped the bag and slowly creatures starte to form as the vacuum went. A large hippo appeared followed by bears and tigers, snakes, dogs and chickens. Before I left home one of my grandchildren cleared out all her cuddly toys and gave them to me to bring here for the children. All twenty children were able to have a toy with a few still left over – the differences between the worlds is very evident! I was amazed that, as soon as asked, the children returned the toys to the bag. It was lovely to see the joy as they saw the furry animals emerge. I am sure they will have a lot more fun with them in time to come. I also had jumpers- though some were small for the children and there were not enough to go around. (Jennipher was given the bulk of my case full.)
I spoke to the teacher who would really like some desks for the children a small table for himself and some crayons! The children currently sit on planks of wood balanced on small concrete blocks. To write they kneel on the floor and dirty their clothes which their parents can't afford to keep washing.
We visited the chickens. There are currently a hundred at two weeks old which will be sold to pay the teacher's wages and another hundred at four weeks old which will be used to fund the club. At six weeks they will be sold!
We took our leave and walked back past Our Lady of the Wayside Church and returned home.
I checked in on the internet and chatted to a young woman who was having lunch. I played one of Boniface's videos to Ben – I loaded it onto Youtube a couple of years ago.
Diven has resolved his issue – at least for now – so I arranged to visit Boniface at his recording studio in town. Ben decided to join me.
As we passed St.Vincent's School Nancy ran out to greet me – you will now see some photos of Nancy – I won't need to identify her!!
I had a chance to introduce Ben to yet another little corner of Monze. Another market – or extension of the market with plenty of music playing.
Boniface has his studio inside a hairdressing salon. The complete unit cannot be more than five foot by eight foot and comprises both a recording studio and a room for mixing the recordings and videos! Despite this some of the music and videos are impressive. I agreed to see where the equipment was being built. A guy builds the frames for the speakers and puts together the pa systems. These are big units and the costs reflect it! Whether I can help at all we shall see. At the moment Boniface spends most of the fee he receives hiring and transporting the equipment.
I picked up almost a kilo of prime steak this afternoon - the cattle is usually slaughtered on a Thursday – so the meat is fresh! It costs 38 ZMW per kilo (less than £3.50).
Ben cooked some fish this evening which we have frozen at our house. He has also been doing far more than his share of washing up – for which I am very grateful. I'll miss him when he returns to the UK.