The time came in September 2022 for me to visit Mbuma, together with a friend and her husband. We arrived safely after two long days’ travel. The purpose of the journey was to familiarise ourselves with the hospital and how healthcare is practised there. I am a Dutch paediatric nurse and was keen to see how big the differences were between healthcare and resource availability in the Netherlands and in Zimbabwe.
I was allowed to spend a day at the Outpatient Department, visit all the wards and witness an operation. Let me describe for you Dr Anneke Snoek’s schedule when she has an outpatient day—when patients turn up at the hospital with problems or for check-ups.
The first to shuffle into the Outpatient Department is an old man. He is greeted by a nurse who takes his temperature, oxygen saturation and weight. It is all noted in a softcover book that the patient keeps with him, and is stamped and dated. He then proceeds to the specialist nurse, who is able to deal with many issues single-handedly. However, the old man’s condition is too complex, so he is referred on to her.
He takes his seat in the waiting room and bides his time. It is another hour and a half before he is called: the doctor has been called away to an emergency operation.
This already identifies for us a major difference with the Netherlands, where everything is mapped out in minutes. We Dutch become impatient even if we are kept waiting for a quarter of an hour by some circumstance, but here at the hospital, people will uncomplainingly sit and wait their turn for four hours or more.
After the old man, we saw a variety of other patients come past: the young, the elderly and pregnant women.
Something else that struck me was that they really take time here to listen carefully to the patient. How different from the Netherlands, where there are specialists for all kinds of problems: here, the same treating doctor takes all comers. Another difference from Dutch healthcare is that when a scan or ultrasound needs to be taken, the patient is asked beforehand whether he can pay. The same applies to any medicines that might be needed. They have to be paid for first, and then they can be collected from the pharmacy.
After a long and patient wait, the old man gets to see the doctor, who looks through his notes and asks him some questions. She is quite frank with him: he is gravely ill and won’t live long. There is discussion of prolonging his life and managing the pain, but also of the spiritual support that is available. Dr Snoek tells him that there is another Physician, One Who can give true healing and rest. The patient gives his consent to be referred to the hospital catechist to be taught from the Word of God. This, I think, is the greatest difference between Dutch hospitals and Mbuma Mission Hospital: patients here do of course come for treatment of their physical ailments, but they are also told about their spiritual state and pointed to the Great Healer—advice which we all need for this life and for eternity.
I saw and learned much in the space of this visit. On the one hand, we are phenomenally well-off in the Netherlands: healthcare is well organised and so much more can be done than in Africa. However, the visit impressed upon me that Zimbabweans take one day at a time and live in dependence on the Lord, particularly the Christians among them.
This was my glimpse of healthcare in Zimbabwe. I wish all who read this, wherever they are, the Lord’s blessings.