Because of my medical background, we were generously invited by Urs Lauper, founder of the Swiss Lao Hospital project, to share a routine morning at the hospital.
The day started off with an intense discussion of the past night’s cases, (had to fight off the microphone a few times, *phew*)
Then we tailed the doctors on their rounds, exchanged lots of heartfelt smiles, tip-toed into the delivery rooms and delighted in the baby-washing room where thorough lathering, splashing and fluffing were taking place- in a surprisingly peaceful ambiente
For all its outer simplicity, peeling paint, crowded halls and- more seriously- its restricted budget, the atmosphere in this hospital is one of concentrated, careful care-giving- of good medicine. There’s a culture of teaching and learning here that’s exemplary, (all employees are Laotian), and the staff’s dedication to improving life for mothers and children, women and families, is very evident.
The hospital serves thousands of mothers and babies a year. The project also runs neonatal “outposts” in what will soon be half a dozen clinics, dotted across the country. It offers HIV counselling, therapy for traumatized sex-workers and hands on help for pregnant, HIV infected women. Family planning education and a vaccination clinic are a given, and home births (70-80% of all babies are born at home in Laos) are becoming that much safer, thanks to a nifty sterile birthing kit, that was developed by the project’s midwives. It contains a thin plastic sheet, a small bar of soap, surgical gloves, 2 pieces of cord, a razor knife, a small bottle of 3-way disinfectant blue, a pack of cotton swabs, and an illustrated flyer. Voilà!
The kit is slowly becoming available in remote parts of the country. (Production costs: $3)
It’s almost unbelievable that these many-faceted, countrywide projects are the legacy of one man- Dr Urs Lauper, retired head physician at the Klinik für Geburtshilfe, Universitätsspital Zurich, who founded the hospital and has developed, led and sustained the project over many years. His dedication and selflessness are humbling and inspiring.