Ambulance Service

Late this morning, I’m just leaving the special school on my bike, about to go home and do a few things prior to our kid coming home from nursery in his usual whirlwind of energy and chaos, when the phone rings.  It’s “my” family from the hamlet; my mate kiddo has split his head open, they think it’ll need stitching, any chance that I might be able to come and collect them?  Give me ten minutes to get home and swop the bike for the car and I’ll be on my way.  So that took care of the next little while.  I broke the speed limit pretty well all the way there not knowing what I was going to find, but on arrival it quickly became clear that he was fine; good wide cut to the back of the head, stitches definitely required, but nothing very serious. 

Even with my Jenson Button impression, it was still an hour between me leaving my house and us arriving at the hospital.  Then we had to wait for another hour despite there only being one person ahead of us, who was seen within five minutes of our arrival.  I suspect most (all?) of the medical staff went on their lunch break at that point.  Service to the public isn’t always a strong feature of “public services” here in Argentina, but I’ve written about that before.  This gave me plenty of time to observe the cleaning staff, two women who were “mopping” the floor, (read “sloshing water”) around, rather than under, the chairs, tables, trolley beds etc.  Apart from making me wonder when (if?)those areas are ever cleaned, the best bit was the psychological warfare; they were working in parallel corridors, each of which leads to one of the only two exits in the A&E, and both were equally determined that the public should not walk down “their” corridor during the cleaning process, despite various members of the public wishing to exit the building.  I guess that little bit of sport is probably the only interesting part of their day so maybe we shouldn’t begrudge it to them. 

Then we were attended to and the offending head dutifully sewn up.  I really hoped that we wouldn’t be kept in for “observations” re head injury, since it was clear to anyone who knows kiddo that he was just fine, but of course the doctors don’t know what “normal” looks like for him.  Fortunately they agreed with my assessment, so once the blood was cleaned up we were released on our way, and he’s now safely home sporting a chef’s hat affair made out of a roll of wide bandage (I can’t imagine he’s tolerating that by now, but he still had it on when I dropped him off). 

Why am I telling this story (apart from the fact that it took up half the day)?  Because it really made me think about how isolated these guys are.  They only live half an hour from a large, middle class town, in the wealthiest province in Argentina, but that still makes it an hour to the hospital by the time someone comes out to get them.  Today we were fortunate that it hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks; if it had rained yesterday, the last three kilometres to their house would only be accessible by truck.  This was also a minor injury; if it had been time-critical, we would have been playing a game of real-life roulette.  And for every kiddo and his family, there must be thousands like them in Argentina, particularly in those provinces which don’t have anything like the infrastructure that we enjoy(?) here in Cordoba.  For these people, social and cultural constructs of life and death must take on a whole new meaning.  And finally my boggled mind is trying to get itself around the idea that if Argentina is something like the fortieth most developed country in the world (according to the UN 2009), that leaves  another two hundred countries whose populations live a reality of which I understand absolutely nothing. 

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