It is coming to 11:30am and I am arriving at Kicukiro public health center with a neighbor’s sick house help.
At the reception of the health center, one encounters queues of patients in the final stages of procuring medication. Some are lined up as others wait on benches to join the lengthy lines.
One after another they are served through windows. The first window is where the patients pay the dues and the next window medication is handed to them.
On joining the line to pay consultation fee, it is easy to note the reason behind the long queues.
I watched as the attendant, a lady who looked to be in her forties sluggishly received payments and severally kept getting carried away in conversation with a workmate.
At a certain point, she was completely absorbed by the conversation and appeared as if work had come to a stand still.
They even seemed blind to the patients’ out stretched hands through the windows in unfruitful signaling to hasten the delivery pace. Then it resumed. Reacting to the delays patients murmured inaudible grumbles.
Finally, I am attended to. Then proceed to the compulsory weight measurement.
After taking the weight measurements I am directed to the laboratory. I make entrance through the laboratory door only to be ordered to head back.
“We serve through the window. Get back,” she redirected me as I questioned her reception.
I tell the patient I had brought with me to get positioned in front of the window. Stretching her hand as if repaying the bills at the first window, a selected finger is pricked and pressed on a slide for a blood sample to test for malaria parasites.
Then I ask the lab attendant the length of time the test would take.
“It will take a short time,” she replies.
I rephrase the question being particular on the time.
“If you want you can head home and come back,” she replies appearing irritated without specifying the length of time.
Puzzled, I nod my head questioning the service delivery at the public health service.
I seat amongst other patients on the bench enraged by the kind of delivery attached to a life saving service.
After 30 minutes of waiting, there comes a man appearing very sick and in need of immediate help. With shortness of breath, he later told me that he is called Elidad.
Later, I watched him lean on a friend after failing to support his body. The old man who takes measurement looks on, as if ignorant of the difference between an emergency and an ordinary case.
This wasn’t noticed by those serving through the windows at the front of the health center where everyone makes a first stop.
Barely able to keep his balance Elidad is supported by a friend as the old man takes the weight measurement and measures the patient’s body temperature.
With sweat dripping from his face, appearing dizzy, it is visible to tell that Elidad is very sick. After the weight and temperature measurement, the old man advises the friend to buy temperature reducing tablets.
The friend leaves a frail Elidad behind on a bench to go buy the tablets. Unable to keep balance he tilts to one side and with the left hand manages to sustain his balance. It is 2:30pm and after close to two hours of waiting the laboratory results are brought.
But on entering to see a doctor, we are is confronted by cleaners. “You can’t enter. It is time for cleaning,” the old man says as he stops us.
“But patients are still piled here waiting to be treated and you people are cleaning?” I question him visibly angry.
He adds that this is the time doctors are out having lunch.
“But you also came late. Let them clean,” the old man giving me a reply yet ignorant of my time of arrival.
Infuriated, I head for the front to ask one of the cleaners on their cleaning schedule.
“We come late in the morning so we can’t clean. But according to the schedule we are supposed to clean in the morning, between 1:00pm and 2:00pm and in the evening.
There are usually delays when patients are many so we clean a bit late,” explained the cleaner.
After mopping the corridor and the doctors rooms, they have to wait for the tiled floor to dry up. It is close to 4:00pm as me and other patients instead of a decent conversation get engrossed in a description of service delivery at the health center.
Others expressed a combination of anger and hunger then went off to a nearby canteen to get a snack.
As we wait, patients complain about the poor scheduling that interferes with provision of health services.
Later, a doctor tells us to wait. He locks himself in his chamber with lunch and opens after 30 minutes.
After finally visiting the doctor, I still have to endure the sluggish window serving. For a person who came at 11:30am I was leaving at 6:00pm very hungry.