In a matter of seconds, an examination room at Irambo United Methodist Health Clinic is overwhelmed.
Gael Nonge, a 7-year-old girl in a red polka-dot dress, critically ill with malaria, lies on her side, frail arm extended over the edge of the bed. A thin IV line is inserted, the fluid drip bag draped over a rusty nail that is holding up the bag and a malaria treatment poster.
Suddenly, the door swings wide and Margelittle Enanga, an elderly woman with bloody gauze on her head and a wrapped wrist, is ushered into the same bed. Moaning, her body inches away from the child, doctors rush to see to her wounds.
The little girl’s mother slowly pushes her way into the crowded room to sit on the bed next to her frightened daughter.
Dr. Damas Lushima, the only doctor at the clinic, said patients seeking medical care often overwhelm the small clinic. Typically, they treat malaria, HIV/AIDs, typhoid and tuberculosis and run a busy maternity ward, he said.
The clinic has seven beds and serves a population of 15,000.
“We operate on about 25 people per month with things like appendicitis,” Lushima said. “We have more than 300 patients a month.”
Just down the hall, a woman waiting to give birth was quietly writhing with labor pains. Moments before, another woman had delivered her baby in the same bed. Now, that new mother was sitting across the hall, breastfeeding her infant.
Lushima said the maternity ward was full. No private beds here. Some beds hold up to three or more people with various ailments. Infants are in bed with adults and older children with contagious illnesses.
“One more person and they will have to find a place on the floor,” he said.