Doctors away from home present differing challenges


IT’S since September 2015 that the current group of six Chinese specialist doctors have been based at Dodoma Regional Hospital.

They had arrived in the country the previous month and spent some time in Dar es Salaam acclimatizing before taking their new posts. As has been the custom, with all the other such groups of doctors that came before them, after completing their two-year stint – which for this group will be next month, August – the team will be able to return to their home base in Shandong Province.

Another team usually arrives, just before their departure, to continue the work here. This has been the pattern for 48 years, in accordance with an agreement established by the two country’s founding fathers. Seeing that the agreement did not include spouse or children, these specialists had to agree to leave their families back in China.

Once here, they usually got the chance of going back home, on a short leave, once within their two-year stint. From various conversations with these doctors now and then, since their coming to the country in 2015, the ‘Daily News’ had many opportunities to hear their feelings towards this agreement.

All of them admitted finding the separation from home more difficult on arrival than they had thought it would have been. However, none ever spoke of returning before completing their term. This sentiment has also been expressed to the ‘Daily News’ by the other members of the Chinese Medical Team (CMT), who are based in Tabora, Mara and Dar es Salaam regions, where the overall team leader, Professor Jiang Yonghua, resides.

All the-same, they also say that the harshness of being away from beloved ones is reduced a little, thanks to modern advances in communication technology. Having said this, it should also be noted that there are other reasons behind their reluctance to leave before finishing the agreed two-year stint.

Rather paradoxically, as it may seem, some of the same things that make their living here difficult when compared to China, are the very same reasons that keeps them attached to here. “There are many doctors, equipment and medicine in China.

This is quite the opposite here, which means our specialisation is often put to different uses here. Working here gives us many opportunities to expand our practical working knowledge, in an environment, which lacks equipment, medicine and specialised doctors,” the Dodoma-based leader of the six doctors, Physician Dr Zhong Ye, told the ‘Daily News’ in a recent conversation.

In fact, all of the CMT doctors, together with their secretary, Song Toa, said they had to learn how best to cope in another country, miles away from their families. To date, team after team has managed to do this quite satisfactorily.

The irony comes into play when they’re close to returning back home, after having completed their term. “When we came here we faced multiple life challenges, due to the different climate and such things as the role religion plays in people’s life here.

For example, pork is the main meat in China, whereas here many people don’t even eat it,” Dr Zhong said, while revealing his surprised tone. “However,” he continued “now that it’s getting close to completing out time here, it’s now that we’re getting used to certain things and learning how to generally move around,” he added.

It should be mentioned here that while in the country, members of the CMT did not only provide medical services and medicine, at their respectivementioned regional hospitals. They also go out on outreach programmes now and then, within their particular region or even neighbouring ones, at times.

Last month, together with Prof Jiang and their secretary, who had travelled by road from Dar es Salaam, the six Dodo ma-based doctors made sure to set-up a booth within Nyerere Square for the commemoration of the International Albinism Day.

This is how they became amongst those credited with a certificate for contributing to the event, which was held there in representation of the nation. They had come with some sunglasses and body lotion, to give those people with albinism that visited their booth.

When asked why he came all the way from Dar es Salaam just for the occasion, Prof Jiang said they wanted to have a closer connec tion to these people, who have to undergo certain discomfort and suffering for no fault of their own.

He saw this as sufficient reason for them, as doctors to do whatever they could so that these people could be more comfortable. Being there on the day he says was much better than if they had not come. Now he is happy because they have improved the physical communication lines between them and People with Albinisms on many fronts.

On his part, Dr Zhong told the ‘Daily News’ he was pleased to be part of the International Albinism Day commemorations because he personally sympathised with their plight. Therefore, he was pleased to be there. It also gave him more than a glimpse into how Tanzanians commemorate such events as the IAD.

In the conversation, he expressed his belief that by enhancing the medical insurance system would go a long way towards improving the services generally received throughout out the country. In connection to the general landscape of Dodoma now and two years ago, the team’s gynaecologist, Wang Xiaoguang, told the ‘Daily News’ there are much more vehicles on Dodoma streets now.

He also sees the same thing applying in the area of buildings for he talked about there being a visible increase in construction sites now compared to when they came, almost two years ago. “Maybe this has something to do with the directive given by President (John Pombe) Magufuli, for government offices to move from Dar es Salaam to here, so that it can truly play the role of the country’s capital,” Dr Wang questioned.

He also mentioned finding Tanzania having much less HIV Aids victims than he had thought when he was back in China. He has also noticed there being more skilled doctors in local hospitals now than when they came. He will not forget his time here, where the people, especially in “Dodoma, are happy, peaceful, and polite” when he meets them.

One of the two ladies in the Dodoma team is ophthalmologist Yang Xueli. She told the ‘Daily News’ that when she finally returns home and is asked to describe here, she’ll start by saying how fresh the air is. As a doctor, she has witnessed here having many patients requiring treatment to the eye, which would be greatly helped with an increase in more local doctors taking-up this speciality and somehow more medicine being made available.

Had it not been for her husband, a teacher and three-yearold son back home, she would welcome an extension to her stay here. However, currently she’s looking forwards to waking-up in the same house with them. Maybe one way of indicating how the doctors had to look for unique ways at times to handle being far away from their homes is Dr Yang leaving hair to grow long, when she failed to find a hairdresser that suited her.

One thing for sure, all of the doctors mentioned above and the other three members, who are based in Dodoma - ENT specialist Si Weifeng, General Surgeon Zhang Lei and paediatrician Jiao Xiaoling – said they’ll be leaving to return home with more fond memories than anything else, despite all the shortcomings they found in equipment or medicine because the people filled the gap.

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