This week we have been observing the doctors and nurses who work in Centro de Salud N4 (Health Center Number 4) here in Cuenca. This clinic is funded by the government and provides care to patients at no cost. Located in a poorer neighborhood of the city, this clinic is small compared to many of the hospitals in the United States, but its two floors house a variety of departments ranging from family medicine to emergency care. The people who come to this clinic often have to wait for several hours before they are able to see a doctor, and a continuous flow of patients pass through the waiting rooms and offices every day of the week.
On Thursday morning, I had the opportunity to shadow the clinic´s gynecologist. At 8:15 am she began going through the thick stack of medical files on her desk, each numbered with a blue card paper-clipped to the front of the patient´s folder. One by one she called the women into her office and asked what brought them to the clinic…a pregnant woman several months along came in with her husband for a monthly checkup; an elderly woman experiencing unusual bleeding was examined and referred for more testing; a teenage mother was given information about STD`s and various birth control methods that are available. As patients were seen and their records filed away, the hospital staff brought in more folders to replenish the stack on the doctor´s desk, each representing another patient waiting to be seen that day.
On Friday morning, my group observed the clinic´s pediatric department and shadowed a female doctor with a friendly smile for each child who was brought into her office. Most of the kids were less than three years old, and they came in for checkups to make sure they were healthy and growing normally. Many children here suffer from anemia due to a deficiency of iron in their diet, so the doctors often prescribe iron supplements for the kids to take. All of the kids were super cute, and I think this was my favorite department to observe.