An interview with Dr. Magueye Ba
Aug 31, 2020
Dr. Ba, who runs the Sinthian, Fass, and Kocoum medical clinics, is one of our closest partners. He also runs a contracting company that built Thread and the Fass school, and is now busy working on the redesign of the Tambacounda Hospital maternity and pediatric wards. Dr. Ba answered some of our questions about life in Senegal during Covid 19, the coming malaria season, and how the hospital redesign is poised to change the region’s healthcare for the better.
How has the Covid 19 pandemic affected the population of Sinthian, Fass, and the surrounding region? Senegal has had a smaller number of cases than many other countries, but you and your patients face many difficulties in obtaining supplies during regular times. As a doctor in the region for over 15 years, what have you seen during these unprecedented months?
After the first case appeared here in March, Senegal put in place a certain number of restrictions that have had a major impact on its economy, health, and social fabric. The population is in a more difficult and stressful situation than it was prior to the pandemic.
At the medical centers of Sinthian, Fass and Kocoum, we have many patients with chronic conditions such as HIV, diabetes, or tuberculosis, and during the lockdown they found it near impossible to visit the clinics to obtain their medications. Inter-regional travel was prohibited, as was travel by motorbike, and in the interior, motorcycles are the most common means of transportation. Furthermore, certain patients who needed to go to Dakar for certain treatments, such as for cancer, were unable to do so. The consequences of these restrictions took their toll, with patients experiencing complications of their conditions, and many dying at home.
Regarding the economic impact, it’s important to mention that in rural Tambacounda, weekly markets are the most important means of exchange and commerce. With their suspension, many families experienced food shortages. People could not work nor buy food, so there was a real lack at the dinner table. Even though we had very few Covid 19 cases in the region, families were plunged into poverty, and what Le Korsa did, by providing food to the local population, and support to the Sinthian medical center, has helped immensely and given us life.
For now we continue to practice and promote all the proper hygienic measures, including frequent and rigorous handwashing. We are seeing less illness related to poor hygiene as a result.
Construction on Tambacounda hospital is advancing. How do you see this new building improving healthcare in Tambacounda?
The construction of this building, with its waiting room capacity, will be of capital importance for the entire region of Tambacounda, the patients, and medical staff.
Currently, the maternity ward at this regional hospital lacks beds. Those of us who are doctors out in the bush, and who need to refer patients to the hospital, are obligated to call ahead to see if there is a bed for one of our patients. Often, patients have to wait outside, under the trees.
It is the same in the pediatric ward. Because of the unit’s overall dilapidation, babies have to wait outside for their mothers, especially in cases where the mother needs some follow-up care.
Thanks to this new building’s waiting rooms and technical features, caring for patients will be much more efficient. No patients will be turned away. And its beauty and functionality will help keep OBGYNs and pediatricians practicing medicine here in Tambacounda, rather than deciding to leave for elsewhere.
This year, there has been more rain than usual in Tambacounda, which is good for crops, but it will also mean more mosquitoes and possibly a rough malaria season. Can you tell us what you are expecting in terms of malaria this year?
Malaria is the primary cause of death in our region, and children are the most vulnerable. Malaria can strike at any time during the year but it rises during the summer rainy season and peaks during September and October. Last year, we had 1010 cases in October, and five people died.
Children under the age of five who are malnourished or have anemia are the most likely to develop a serious form of malaria, which can cause neurological or hematological damage. It is the same for pregnant women, who can experience miscarriages, become underweight, or even lose too much blood while giving birth. So we pay the most attention to children under five and pregnant women.
For mild cases, treatment is simple and free. We also focus on preventative measures.
Mosquito nets are an excellent form of malaria prevention, but they must be used properly, and that can be hard to monitor. The other important preventative measure is proper cleaning in the villages, and ensuring that mosquitoes don’t have stagnant water in which to breed. So we are working on that, and we are grateful that Le Korsa is helping to provide more mosquito nets this year.
If you would like to help us prevent malaria, please consider making a donation so we can provide more nets.