We spent this morning at the hospital. Half of us went to the maternity unit, and half of us went to the emergency room. The students who went to the maternity unit were so impressed by how mother and infant care has managed.
The hospital has launched a Kangaroo care campaign, with help from Dr. Foster. The mothers are encouraged to hold the infants to their chests for most of the day. This helps the infants regulate their body temperatures, breathing, facilitates lactation, and helps the mothers bond with their infants, among other things. In a low tech hospital, this intervention is indispensable in promoting infant growth and well-being.
Patient education is very thorough in these units. Bryonna and Krystena reported that the mothers had fairly high levels of knowledge about post-partum and infant care. Mothers also get the opportunity to learn from each other. There are six to eight beds in each patient room. New mothers get to spend a lot of time together, and often share their experiences, feelings, and perspectives with each other.
We had all learned so much about how healthcare was carried out in a resource-poor setting and had had plenty of opportunities to better our Spanish. But some of us were feeling a bit disheartened by the end of the day. We weren’t personally treating huge volumes of people, and our efforts to serve the patients we did see were somewhat hampered by resource limitations and a language barrier. We were a bit confused about our purpose for being on the trip.
That afternoon, we went to the opening ceremony for the new casita de salud. This small clinic will serve as an educational and preventative health promotion center for mothers and infants in Manhattan, a small, low-income community on the outskirts of the city. Emory provided organizational support for getting the center established. But this casita is ultimately going to be led and staffed by local healthcare practitioners, with Emory students and faculty supporting them on their terms.
We realized that this trip is not about treating as many people as possible in a one week time span, although we will have some direct patient contact to fill in some gaps in care. We are here to help Dominican residents work on Dominican problems, thereby creating sustainable solutions that empower people in the area to take charge of their own communities.