Botswana Needs More Doctors

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By Jade

We first heard this statement as a group during an evening with Dr. Avalos, a leading HIV/AIDS doctor in Botswana. After eating dinner outisde in Botwana’s evening chill, we sat around a fire inside Maru-a-Pula principal Mr. Taylor’s home. Dr. Avalos described the many facets of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Although Botswana has many resources, and a successful program that provides antiretroviral medication to all in need, Dr. Avalos explained that a lack of health care professionals plagues Botswana more than just about anything. Because of Botswana’s stability and economic success, charities and the like want to invest money here, but the country lacks the numbers to execute new program. For example, circumcision has been shown to decrease the chance of infection by 60% and could be a promising way to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. Also, some tribes in Botswana already practice circumcision, however not always safely. Doctors want to encourage circumcision but only if its safe with a health professional. Ideally, doctors would be able to go into the field to ensure the safety of circumcision procedures. As Dr. Avalos explained, this simply isn’t possible because doctors are too preooccupied with the clinics full of patients to take the time off to complete this task. As a result, Botswana cannot harness this new research due to a lack of health care professionals.

We saw this firsthand at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone. This hospital is the largest hospital in Gaborone and generally serves Southern Botswana. We worked in the pediatric ward and watched as some nurses tended to patients while others went through the paper work involved with medical care. Beds lined the walls of open rooms where children lay with their mothers by their side. In some cases, we saw the mothers holding the IV for their child. We filed into a small nurses office. They delegated some students to clean and organize a supply closet while others went through files. It became obvious that the staff were overloaded with patients and had no spare time to keep up with filing or maintain order. Our group of thirteen kind of overloaded the clinic because while they need more bodies, we couldn’t provide the medical expertise they really need. Without work, a few students and I talked to Aline about this problem. The government has tried to encourage Batswana to become doctors and help the country. Botswana however does not have a medical school. Right now, the government will pay for a student’s education abroad at a medical school as long as they serve in Botswana for two years as doctors. This however, is not always checked. Now, Botswana is building a medical school in the hopes that more young Batswana will be able to get their degrees to benefit Botswana rather than staying abroad. 
In our discussion with Dr. Avalos and my personal experiences at the Princess Marina Hospital I saw first hand the lack of medical professionals in Botswana and recognize it as a root problem with medical care here.