Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital, Banjul, Gambia

GUEST ENTRY- STACEY IVERSON

When I first found out that you could take a tour of the local hospital, I was instantly intrigued, but at the same time I questioned the safety of my own health and the risks involved if I were to enter an institution full of ‘ill or infected’ patients. I decided to take the risk, as I felt it would be very beneficial to my studies of healthcare and I felt it would be a good opportunity to compare the British NHS system to the health care system of a lesser developed country.

On our arrival, the guards very sternly informed us and our Gambian friends that there were no tours today, it was Sunday after all so it was understandable. After much delegation and persuasion our friends came over to us and told us that the guard was going to allow us to tour the hospital in the return of a donation. I was delighted and became very excited about what I was about to experience. It was very useful having Gambian friends, they were extremely good at managing to wangle their way in on various occasions.

We were escorted onto the premises, the building looked deserted from the outside, accept from a few women and their children propped up against the railings. There was an ambulance in the forecourt, it didn’t look like it was used very often so I asked the guard if there were many ambulances, and he replied no. I can’t say that I ever saw an active ambulance on the five days I had already been there.  So we entered the building, we were now inside an old looking building which had a very distinctive smell, but all hospitals do so this wasn’t unusual. We attracted lots of attention as expected as we were two white girls walking around a predominantly black hospital. The next question which was fired at us was from what field or background we were from. I proudly replied that I was studying a health and social care degree. I suddenly found my belonging in this place.

As we wandered into the wards, I noticed some obvious differences to the usual hospitals you’d find back in the UK. Each bed was fitted with a mosquito net above it, and all of the patients were dressed in their own clothes and therefore it became apparent that there were no hospital gowns however I didn’t find whether the patients were given gowns to wear if they were to have surgery. After meeting various members of staff on the way around, sisters and matrons, doctors and admin staff, I decided that my next question was going to be regarding staffing numbers as I’d noticed that there wasn’t many staff around. The answer to this was that there was one nurse per ward and each ward had 10-12 beds in it. With a full ward, this could become very demanding for the nurses. At this particular time the wards were not by any means full, in fact they were quite the opposite, there wasn’t many patients in at all. The hospital in general felt like a very warm and friendly place, very welcoming indeed.

One of the areas of the hospital I was interested in particular was the levels of hygiene. The British hospital s are often in the press being criticised for superbugs or poor practice, I was interested in the procedures (if any) which had been put into place to control hygiene and cleanliness. The doors were open to provide the air conditioning therefore there were many flies circulating the wards. As the tour progressed, I started to become curious to why the patients had been admitted to hospital for. Some of the problems included; diabetes, breathing problems, falls and vomiting of blood.

One thing that I noticed were two English trainee doctors who were working in the Gambia as part of their training, it was quite a common thing for English professionals to do a work placement type experience in the Gambia, health care along with education are the two areas which are extremely popular.

Overall the tour was very interesting and that visit alone has triggered a desire to visit more overseas healthcare institutions, the experience gave me a newfound yearning into the different healthcare settings as I can imagine they vary in different parts of the world, so on future trips I will make a special effort to find a tour of whatever country it shall be’ healthcare.