Thursday, March 28, 2013

Free medical consultations for communities in Thiès, Senegal

Story by Courtney Petersen, Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur

“My head is aching, and the rest of my body has been in pain for a couple of years,” Mame Ndingue told the visiting medical team in Senegal. Because of her pain she is unable to tend to her normal responsibilities, and, like many others in her rural community, she cannot afford medical treatment. 

From March 19 - 29, Tostan is collaborating with the Mary A. Tidlund Charitable Foundation to increase access to healthcare through free medical consultations in rural communities in the region of Thiès, Senegal. The medical team includes two doctors, five nurses, and three volunteers from Canada along with a team of Tostan staff and volunteers acting as translators. 

The Senegal medical team and translators 
holding Tostan health and human rights posters.
The medical team is working together with the Head Doctor of the region and local nurses at the health posts in Saam Njaay and Tassette to host free health consultations to community members like Mame Ndingue. These communities built their understanding of health as a human right through participation in our Community Empowerment Program (CEP) or through community-organized social mobilization activities. Through the CEP and activities community members learn the importance of consulting a doctor when they are ill.

Each day the nurses register patients, record their medical concerns and history, and make a basic health assessment. The doctors then sit with each patient to consult them on their main health concern and give a medical exam. This continues all day until every patient has the opportunity to be consulted.

One of the doctors at the consultations, Dr. Gulshan Lodhy, shared that the most common illnesses being treated are ear, eye, and respiratory tract infections, as well as chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, and muscle and bone pain.

For many patients who attended the free consultations, seeking regular medical attention is not an option because of the high cost of medication and treatment, especially for chronic illnesses. The free consultations provide much needed access to affordable healthcare in the region.

Mame Ndingue shared how important this health consultation was to her: “[The consultation] was very good because I am not paying for anything. Usually, I don’t have enough money to go to the doctor so I am very happy to have had this opportunity.”

So far 380 patients have received medical care through the free consultations.

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Blog adapted by Salim Drame