News: Free clinic treats wounds and educates locals
Story by Sgt. Lizette Hart
PAKTIYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Men, teenagers and boys were waiting in line to receive treatment for various medical issues at a first aid clinic in Jaji Aryoub District Hospital, Jaji district, Sept. 26.
There were no less than six local males crowded inside a small medical treatment room. The room was already congested with three procedure tables, a desk, two side tables, two storage cabinets and multiple chairs. At least another dozen males waited outside the clinic to be seen. Some had crutches and canes while others had visible injuries and infected wounds.
The aid station, a small part of the larger hospital, is a community health clinic which is open every day to treat the local men and boys at no charge. The clinic is staffed with 12 doctors and medics who rotate between the main hospital and the various clinics, including radiology, an emergency room, an operating room and a women’s clinic that specializes in women and children.
The staff consists of formally trained doctors and medics of the Afghan National Army. They are all trained on how to treat trauma ranging from mild to severe. The clinic is designed to treat infections and wounds requiring immediate care such as broken bones.
The patients first see the main hospital’s staff, who triage them based on their needs. The patients are then sent to the various sections of the hospital for treatment.
“The main hospital sends them to where they need to go, whether or not they need lab procedures or blood work or other things,” said Dr. Parwiz, an ANA medic.
Often the patients have attempted to treat themselves, which tends to lead to improper treatment before coming into the clinic. The patients will frequently improvise for medical supplies and use what they have on hand to assemble makeshift bandages of paper and tape.
“You’d be amazed to see what they come in with,” said Parwiz. “This guy had lined writing paper and tape holding his wound closed. It’s been there so long I had to remove the tape with a knife.”
The doctors will remove the bandages already in place, clean and treat the wound and re-bandage as necessary. Because of limited supplies the patients don’t often have the privilege of receiving anesthesia before the medical care, so they grimace and bear the pain.
“They’re brave for enduring the pain of sutures without being numbed,” said 1st Lt. Y. Qudratullah, an ANA medic. “Sometimes it’s difficult to listen to the children scream and cry while they’re being treated.”
On average, the clinic sees about two dozen patients a day. The degree of injuries and wounds varies greatly, from cut fingers to broken bones.
“We get a lot of patients with abscesses and infections,” said Qudratullah. “We don’t always have antibiotics, so sometimes it’s hard to treat them when all we can do is clean and bandage it.”
After treatment, the patients are given a prescription for medication, if it’s available, and sent across the street to the bazaar where it is filled.
Due to limited supplies and a lack of medical knowledge, the patients are given a brief lecture on how to care for their wounds. The staff educates the patients on proper cleaning of the wound, when to change bandages and what to use for bandages. A limited amount of supplies prevents the staff from sending patients home with extra gauze and tape, so the clinic tells them what is acceptable to use in its place.
“The people won’t have what we have so we do the best we can and tell them what to use,” said Parwiz. “They often live in places that aren’t clean so it’s hard to prevent infection, which is why they always come back.”
By treating and educating the patients on proper medical care and treatment, the clinic staff teaches preventative medicine to the local men of the villages in the hopes of avoiding potential infections and diseases and securing the health of future generations.