If you want to run into someone from your district, the hospital is the place to go on a Thursday afternoon. Once a few, for a few hours we have a doctor visit our hospital, so many people come on this day. There is only one hospital on Savaii with doctors there at all hours, and that is in Tuasivi, a 2 bus commute. Most people can’t afford to travel all that was to see a doctor, so sicknesses can wait. Me, I don’t want to be on a bus all day when I feel ill, so I also try to put off any sickness I have until Thursday afternoons.
On a Thursday afternoon, there usually is more than 50 people waiting to see the visiting doctor making visits extremely short. Most of your time is spent in the outside hallway with all of your neighbors. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I see some of my students, neighbors, teachers from other schools, and many others you meet from simply travelling on the same busses. I would never have thought of a hospital being such a social place.
While I went for my last visit to see the doctor, during my 3 hour wait, I saw 3 teachers from my school, my School Review Officer, and countless other people. Everyone chats to find out what is wrong with each other. My brain gets tired from talking so much Samoan, so I always bring a book to have an excuse to not talk for too long.
Even though there is only a doctor once a week, there are nurses on staff 24 hours. So it is the place to go to for medical treatment that is not from a traditional healer.
If someone is sick, and needs to stay at the hospital, there is a place for that. One of my neighbors was in there for several days, and when I walked his family members home one day I learned about having someone stay in the hospital.
For someone to spend the night in our district hospital it is extremely cheap. I don’t remember how much, but she told me it was between $10 and $20 tala a night. The expense comes in when you observe the Samoan culture of giving. Every day, family members need to bring food and tea to feed all of the nurses and staff to thank them for the treatment. Buying food to prepare adds up each day to make it quite expensive, especially to people who do not have much money to begin with.
The one great thing about being a patient there is the treatment. You can be sure that you will get a lot of individual treatment from the nurses, and they will know all of your medical history and are quick to help out. Whenever I see a nurse anywhere, they always seem to know so much about my history, even beyond medical. I feel like they really take the time to connect with everyone. They still ask weekly how my mom is doing from her time in the hospital after falling in my village in September. They really care.
Doctors and nurses can’t use lack of transportation as an excuse to not come to work. The hospital has a driver to pick up and drop off all of the doctors and nurses that come to work.
Although medical treatment can be limited in our little hospital, it is good to know that such a friendly place is there.