The physician strike in Kenya began December 5th. Government employed physicians walked off the job. This has been devastating to me. I remember almost 20 years ago in Arizona when physicians at Thomas Davis Clinic went on strike and how I mobilized, wrote editorials in protest of that action, took a letter to my colleagues and many signed in support of caring for patients, EVEN WHILE, loudly and clearly articulating our concerns. I do not support a strike approach that denies patients critical lifesaving services. That is the approach that is being implemented here in Kenya.
On Monday we had 4 healthy babies in the Kijabe nursery who needed feeding. Not such a difficult task in and of itself. But their mothers had all died in childbirth. Strike causalities. The face of a healthy baby should not be the face of suffering. But it is. Delays and distance to find ANY PHYSICIAN AT ALL mean the vulnerable and the poor suffer. I feel powerless in the face of suffering and I want it to end. Hospital work, too often, even in the face of success, seems too little, too late. I could only wish that BLACK LIVES MATTERED here in Kenya. You can too easily ignore the pain and suffering of the poor and vulnerable if you live in middle class Nairobi. This news is not making the news here. It is so sad.
But in the midst of all this chaos I got out of my Kenya fishbowl and went to Uganda. An international meeting for Community Health Workers. I presented a paper, talked with colleagues around the world, brain stormed, was challenged and encouraged. It was very affirming that what we are doing in the community health team is important and some of it is cutting edge. Community health work is the way that I am most effective in demonstrating compassionate care and spiritual ministry in the name of Christ. It is the way that I best demonstrate that BLACK LIVES MATTER. In the hospital, as a pediatrician I can do much. But so much more can be done with simple interventions in the community to PREVENT THOSE BABIES NEEDING THE HOSPITAL. So I know I can’t quit and I was encouraged to keep on keeping on. Joy in the midst of suffering. Encouragement is like water to a thirsty soul.