In the children’s ward at Rukha Hospital, burqa-clad mothers hover over big iron beds where their babies battle pneumonia, severe diarrhea, or typhoid fever.
Across the hall, Abdul Jalil, 30, leaves the emergency room with a large bandage around his head and a grim warning about blind corners along the Panjshir Valley’s main highway that winds, often without barriers, between jagged cliffs and a rushing river. “People like to drive fast in my country,” says Jalil. “Yes, many of us would be lost without this good place.”
Now, we have trained doctors here every day, every hour, and we are well equipped to face many challenges.
Dr. Jamshid Murid, specialist physician at Rukha Hospital, agrees. Just one year ago, many critical patients had to travel long distances for emergency treatment, and some didn’t survive. “Now, we have trained doctors here every day, every hour and we are well equipped to face many challenges,” he says. “Critically ill babies, children with appendicitis, motor vehicle accidents, we can handle so much more.”
These improvements have occurred through the Ministry of Public Health’s efforts, with support from the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF)’s System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition (SEHAT) program. The program’s objective is to expand the scope, quality and coverage of health services provided to the Afghan people, particularly the poor, women and children in Afghanistan, and to support the Ministry of Public Health’s efforts at stewardship.
The programs transformed the Rukha facility in early 2012 from a basic comprehensive health center to a 40-bed district hospital. On average, the hospital currently serves at least 100 patients a day, says Murid. But with an estimated population of about 150,000, a multitude of patients can arrive at any moment.
Numerous improvementsCurrently, the hospital employs two surgeons, two general physicians, three midwives, a specialist physician, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and a dentist. But the gynecologist left a few months ago.
High staff turnover has been a problem, notes the hospital’s head, Dr. Mahmoud Karamkhil, who arrived recently at the facility.
In fact, Dr. Murid, also started at the hospital only a few months ago. “It is government policy to send doctors out of the city to work in rural areas where they are most needed,” explains Karamkhil. “But it can be a challenge for some because of the schools and lack of other things.”
Karamkhil, who is married with three children in Kabul, plans to commute three or four hours to the capital daily.
“Because of Dr. Khuram, this is now a very, very good hospital,” says Karamkhil, nodding at the surgeon whose solemn eyes and steady hands conducted 190 operations last year, and managed almost 80 more procedures in recent months.
“When we first came, no one knew that we were here and what we could do,” recalls Khuram. “Before, it was a building with very little equipment and staff, but slowly we have watched it grow.