August 23, 2013
You don’t speak Amharic?
After 16 years away from Ethiopia, this was effectively my first visit to the country I insistently called my own. Until now my comprehension of the Ethiopian health care system consisted of horror stories carried across the Atlantic by family members seeking decent medical care. Misdiagnoses, missing providers, decrepit facilities, and questionable treatments had me believe it was only by sheer miracle that the population survived. I was sure then that my future skills would be best used where good health is only found through good luck.
Interning with the Ethiopian Hospital Management Initiative (EHMI) allowed me to see these fabled hospitals first hand. While the conditions did not immediately change my naïve perception, I did observe the influence on hospital administration by groups such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Yale GHLI. Hospital staff regularly record key performance indicators, Regional Health Bureaus and coordinators identify gaps to achieve Ethiopian Hospital Reform Implementation Guidelines, and measuring improvement is becoming common practice. I had the opportunity to participate in projects ranging from leadership and governance to labor and delivery clinical audits. My Harari (language spoken in Harar) skills were put to the test discussing improvements to the region’s referral system. Bottom-line: the country is ambitious and ready for reform.
Discussions with hospital staff and even family members made it more apparent to me the difficulties in expecting comprehensive care in a developing country. I learned that progress was the sum of several small efforts from several dedicated partners. Even though the road to success is slow and rocky (think Addis Ababa to Arbaminch), hospitals, the FMOH, and global supporters are willing to traverse dirt path after dirt path to reach their vision of quality care. For now it’s a matter of effectively connecting the country’s health system in this shared goal: putting the patient, the population, at the forefront of their priorities. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to return and continue my part in furthering health and well being in Ethiopia.