¡Holaaaaa! This is my second blog at Bolivia.
This week my internship finally started! I am at Tarija, a small city in southern Bolivia, very close to the border with Argentina.
My week consisted of going to the clinic Nestor Paz in the mornings, where I was able to shadow a doctor in a normal day at the clinic.
During orientation week at La Paz, and also during the weekly meeting here at Tarija, I was taught that public healthcare in this country is free for everyone. However, during this first week having actual experience in a clinic, I learned that in fact, healthcare is “free” for everyone.
It’s “free”, and not free, because it is true that they do not charge you for a doctor’s appointment, however, you need to be at the clinic hours before it opens in order to obtain an appointment to see the doctor that day. Also, it is true that they offer free contraceptives, however, you need to pay a fee because the insurance does not cover surgical gloves, scalpel, or any other medical instrument that might be needed. Additionally, many medicines are not covered by the free insurance, and most patients are forced to buy their medicine at high prices at private pharmacies.
Doctors write reference notes all day, to see an ophthalmologist, to get laboratory tests done, ultrasounds, x-rays, or get an appointment with any specialist. All of these services are offered for free at the public hospital, but again, this means waking up at around 3am, get to the hospital at 4, and make a line for hours, just to get the medical attention you need.
There are always flaws in any government program, and even though this free healthcare is not completely free, it does help many people in Bolivia. Bolivians get a decent treatment at a clinic, and they have the option of going to the main hospital. They obtain free pregnancy control, all the vitamins they need, vaccines, elders obtain most of the medication they need plus “carmelitos” (dietary supplements) each month, babies get monthly visits at the clinic, and they offer medication for the most common diseases such as the flu or a stomach infection.
During the afternoons, I am volunteering at a community center for kids. I help them with their homework, we play together, we make paper airplanes, drawings, we talk, sing.
They are underprivileged kids, who are struggling with either getting a good nutrition, or suffering some kind of violence, or they need academic support. La libelula, the community center, aids around 200 different families. They offer weekly help for the kids, and if there is any situation going on at home, they try to fix it, again, in the hope of helping the kids.
These little people are amazing, they are filling my life with joy, they hug me all the time, they always want to talk to me, and they are always very happy when I help them with their homework.
I really enjoyed this week, and I hope that I will be able to enjoy the rest of the time I have here. Stay tuned for my next entry next week!