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JR staff find out how the other half nurses
Charlie MucCulloch with Liberian nurses Rommina T Yah, left, and Wattu Borbur around the JR’s paediatric high dependancy unit
AFRICAN nurses found our healthcare system worlds apart from theirs during a visit to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.
Their tour of the Headington hospital last week was part of a Save the Children exchange project to highlight differences in medical facilities across the globe.
It followed a trip by JR children’s nurse Charlie McCulloch, who visited the West African country in December with other medics from British hospitals to compare how fellow nurses cope with limited resources.
On Thursday, the two Liberian healthcare workers said they were shocked by the differences , facilities and equipment in Oxford compared to the coniditions in their poverty-stricken homeland.
Rommina Yah, 34, said: “The hospital is very, very fine. There are big differences. We do all the care for our patients, everything, like the feeding.”
And Watta Borbur, 38, said: “It is different, like when we saw the resuscitation machine. It is very hard for us.”
The Save the Children project, which was funded by a private donor, was aimed at proving how important foreign aid is to countries like Liberia.
The charity says there is one doctor to 4,000 people in Liberia, while in Britain there are 48.
Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, is home to about four million people.
Their average annual income is about £330, and nearly half the population live in extreme poverty, according to Save the Children.
The country saw one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, which is estimated to have resulted in more than 200,000 deaths and forced a further million people into refugee camps.
Most recent estimates put literacy at around 60 per cent, and on average, children have 10 years of schooling.
Life expectancy in Liberia is about 57 years, and diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria are widespread.
In 2007, more than one in five children under the age of five were malnourished.
The country exports 90 per cent of the rice grown there.
Miss McCulloch said: “It just makes you realise how very lucky we are to have the facilities we do here at the Radcliffe.
“Liberia is a beautiful country, which is something you don’t expect from somewhere so war-torn. But the roads are just dirt tracks and there aren’t any ambulances anyway.
“Heavily pregnant women have to walk for five hours or more to get to a hospital. We met some who had to walk for four days in blistering sunshine of 45 degrees heat. And if they give birth during the night there is not always electricity. So the midwife is holding a torch in her mouth trying to catch the baby.
“I saw a boy, Isaac, being treated for severe burns and they didn’t have the medicine to help him, only paracetamol. He was obviously in a lot of pain. At the John Radcliffe we would have given him every medicine under the sun.”
Charity spokesman Lev Taylor said the visit illustrated the large healthcare differences.
He said: “When we went to the John Radcliffe they really didn’t know what to expect. It must have been a bit of heaven.
“You could see in their faces their shock as they were going around the hospital, and when they found out about the patient to nurse ratio they just kept repeating “we work very hard”.”