Coming to the hospital

July 21, 2010

We take emergency services for granted – the ease with which we get emergency help just by dialing 911 is something we expect. Not so here. If you are very fortunate, a pick up truck with a mattress in back will bring you to the hospital. Also, if you are lucky, you can come in the back of a motorcycle outfitted for transport. A third way would be to come in a stretcher, pulled by a bicycle. All of these ways of travel here are called “ambulances”.

Actually, transport for medical care is a huge issue here in Malawi. The most common way of getting to the hospital is by being carried on someone’s back. People also ride on someone’s back on a bicycle. Ox carts bring many, as well as personal vehicles. At a gathering of physical therapists last week, this issue was of importance to the therapists. They are becoming more actively involved in disseminating public health messages – including the importance of not moving people who have sustained a suspected back injury in an auto accident.  Many of these people have spinal cord injuries that are worsened by being transported in the back of an old Toyota Corolla!

Because of the lack of emergency transport, people have understandably taken the responsibility upon themselves. A friend was taking a taxi somewhere (on a long trip). The taxi hit a woman on the road. The woman was injured and needed transport to the hospital. The taxi driver asked my friend to get out of the taxi, and wait. – he would be back. He proceeded to take the woman to the hospital, and then returned for my friend, three hours later. Yes, to deliver her to her destination.  Imagine.

Pick-up Ambulance

Motorcycle Ambulance

Bicycle Ambulance

Ox Cart Transport

Ox Cart with patients


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