When a father gives care, a son gives him love. Look at the picture again; the president shows genuine delight at seeing his son. He may not grin; the smile on his face is rare and spontaneous. It is one of those special smiles drawn from the subterranean of paternal love.
Look closely. You may not see the smile if you are bent on seeing how sick he looks. Look at it from a father-son perspective. Although radiated from a face overwhelmed by illness, the benign smile has power in it; it has eternal love, comfort, encouragement, assurance, and reassurance. His smile is not only substantial, but also a requisite to Kazimu’s recovery, and psychological well-being.
Sata’s smile would be even more consequential if Kazimu was lying in our very own University Teaching Hospital, in a ward as sophisticated as the one in the picture. The smile would be as contagious as to deeply affect us all. It would go beyond being a gesture for love of his son, to being a symbol of pride for all; of great accomplishment, self-empowerment, and advancement.
Sata’s smile would spread to Kazimu’s friends Steven Kawandami, and Tiberth Musambachime,wounded in the same accident. It would engulf the wards and light up the souls of patients less fortunate than Kazimu. That’s what a smile does; it brings happiness, appreciation, and pleasure to those who are treated equally.
The noun associated with “equally” is “equality,” a word that implies that people have the same status in certain respects. In this aspect it refers to “health equality.” A country with 14 million people highly susceptible to all sorts of diseases due to poverty requires the absence of prejudice stimulated by an inalienable part of a person’s class. It calls for the absence of disparities in critical aspects of health. Simply put, it calls for equality in health care.
When allowed to be digested, the above paragraph evokes a feeling of disappointment. Unlike a smile, disappointment hurts. Disappointment is synonymous with failure. It carries with it words like letdown, discontent, displeasure, setback, disillusionment, regret, and shame.
With disappointment in mind look at the President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellence Michael Chilufya Sata seated by the bedside at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, a country that is not his. See how his presidential mystique and prestige are stripped of him. He looks ordinary—lackluster—at the mercy of South Africa. He is in South Africa, in a Milpark ward because his own country does not have state-of-the-art life-saving facilities. For almost fifty years it has lamentably failed to build a hospital of Milpark’s caliber. And since he is the current ruler, he becomes the epitome and conventional emblem of failure.
Look at the picture again, the president looks exhausted. Hardly had he rested after spending two weeks in a hospital in Israel than he found himself in another foreign hospital visiting his son. In the picture, he is hoping South African doctors can save his son’s life, just like he has entrusted his life with Indian, British, and Israeli doctors.
What does all this mean to our very own doctors, fully bred at the Ridgeway Campus after seven years of excruciating training, some of it spent in the morgue? Let me be candid, the president’s son lying in a hospital bed in South Africa is a blotch on the image of the medical profession in Zambia. It undermines our doctors and conveys an impression of medical incompetence. It also sends a wrong message to the international medical fraternity and often results in our doctors being ostracized. They are seen as second-rate, middle-of-the-road, and of course inferior to their foreign peers.
Take the president’s wife for instance. She is a fully-fledged medical doctor. In the picture, she is using the visiting hour at Milpark to see her stepson. She too has put all her hope in the South African doctors. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to see her in a white coat as leader of the Zambian medical team treating Kazimu at UTH? That aside; how wonderful it would be to see her attending to her very own husband in a state-of-the-art ward in Lusaka. Look at the picture again. There is absolutely nothing she can do to help her stepson on foreign soil.
While a picture is worth a thousand words, I have focused on specific words like “smile” “equality” and “disappointment.” Now, let us look at another word, “self-empowerment.” It is a word related to “self-sufficiency.” Self-empowerment in this context is the ability to own facilities that are vital to the survival of a people. In successful cultures, it exudes pride, and confidence.
“Pride” and “confidence” are the words the owner of Netcare Milpark Richard Friedland, carries with him. This is an individual who can afford a state-of-the-art hospital, while our leader who presides over a country with abundant wealth cannot. He cannot afford even a single modern medical ward like the one in which his son is recovering, let alone an Intra-MRI operative machine. Our very own president would rather globe-trot and spend millions of tax-payers’ dollars in aviation gas, medical bills, accommodation, and food.
Let me expound. On the day he visited his son the president first flew by helicopter to the airport and boarded the presidential Challenger jet. After slightly over two hours he landed at Lanseria International Airport. The Challenger 604 jet consumes 262 gallons (1191.1 litres) of fuel per hour which is worth $3,851.00. It takes approximately two hours to Johannesburg, a total of $7,702 one-way and $15,404 return plus parking fees. A seven-hour return Lusaka flight to Tel Aviv would cost approximately $53,914 plus parking fees per hour, and other incidentals. If you add the South African and Israel bills, you get close to $70,000 in gas alone. Add medical bills, food, lodging, and jet parking fees you have a colossal figure.
Why can’t such amounts be channeled to the building of a state-of-the-art annex at the antiquated UTH or any other hospital for that matter? By the way, I stumbled on a quotation of $302 million for a high-tech hospital with 320 beds. A third of the budget (100 beds) would cost approximately $53 million. Surely president Sata can raise this amount without getting a loan.
Let me show him how. Back in January 2009, Frederick Chiluba, appearing in Ndola High Court told Deputy Registrar Jones Chinyama that according to an audit conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers and Grant Thornton there was $53 million in the Zamtrop account of which $8.5 million was his. This is the exact required amount for the project. The Zamtrop money is ours. If it has disappeared, those responsible must be brought to book. In the case the money cannot be recovered, there are many other fund-raising alternatives.
Sourcing medical attention abroad should stop. It exposes a class society built on power. It also exposes disparity due to lack of imagination and poor priorities. What Zambia needs is health-empowerment. Sata’s government must build a state-of-the-art Urgent Care hospital in Zambia that will provide exceptional medical care for all without class distinction.
Thanks to the Sata-Kazimu picture it is as enthusing as disappointing, and serves as an eye opener. The next president must take heed. Having said that let me end by wishing the president’s son Kazimu speedy recovery.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012