I have spoken before about the difference between 'haves' and the 'have nots' here in South Africa. As in many countries, and particularly as in the developing nations, there is a stark difference in the lifestyles of the haves and the have nots. Nowhere is this difference more apparent than in our health care system.
I am going to be generalizing for the sake of illustration here, I know that between the haves and the have nots there exists a whole group of people who have a little, a medium amount, an 'almost lot' etc. But for the purpose of this post, I am going to keep things simple.
Here in South Africa, we have two health care 'systems' - we have the public health care system that provides care for everyone (basic services for free) and the private health care system that provides health care for whose who can afford it. While the doctors and specialists in both cases are excellent (among the best in the world), the difference in facilities and 'service' is enormous. If you have private health insurance (what we call 'medical aid' in South Africa which costs more per month than most people earn as a monthly salary) and you have a baby, your stay in a private hospital is like a stay in a five star hotel. If you don't have medical insurance, your experience is far, FAR less glamorous.
I don't want to put down the amazing work that the staff in these public health facilities do, so I am loath to describe how bad it sometimes can be, but the truth is that these doctors and nurses work under tremendous pressure, understaffed and under-resourced. The facilities are not like a hotel, AT ALL. And I am really putting it very mildly indeed. I think some of the stories would put your hair on end.
The lady who used to clean my house two days a week is pregnant. Last week she went to the local public hospital because she was having pains. She was 32 weeks pregnant and was contracting. After waiting in queues the WHOLE day, they eventually examined her. 32 weeks, one cm dialated. They gave her a few paracetamol tablets and sent her home. She had to WALK home from the hospital. In her condition. If that was a private hospital with a patient with private health insurance, she would have been admitted for observation and given some drugs.
Last week I had to go to a public hospital for a meeting and as I walked past the rows of pregnant ladies waiting and waiting in the corridors, I realized how incredibly lucky I am to live in the world of the haves when it comes to having a baby. The world where YOU choose your doctor, YOU choose your appointment times and where you get first class everything.
One person who lives in the world of the haves, but who tirelessly and selflessly works to help the have nots is my sister Melanie. Melanie runs a charity that assists the mothers in the public hospitals have as dignified and special experience of birthing their baby as is possible. Before Melanie started the charity, some of these new mothers would have nothing other than newspaper to take their babies home in.
The charity, Bosom Buddies is holding a fund raising ball and she is looking for 'fairy godmothers' to sponsor a ticket to the ball for her volunteers and special helpers. Please pop over to Melanie's blog to read about her amazing work and how you could be a 'fairy godmother' and help out. Please click here for more info http://bosombuddies.typepad.com/