Little things still matter

Monday, December 21, 2009
By nias

THE modest grey bricked building looks a world away from its counterpart across road, where shiny blue glass panes are framed by freshly scrubbed walls.

But look closer and you will see that both are connected. Both, in fact, are major components of Gunungsitoli General Hospital in Nias, an earthquake-prone island off the western coast of Sumatra.

The original facility was wrecked by the 8.7 magnitude quake that hit the island four years ago. The new one was the unique result of a multinational effort by Malaysia, China, Japan and Singapore.

Each country funded one wing of the 160-bed facility; the hospital opened in stages from 2007.

Intriguingly, Singapore’s flashy blue-and-white wing sticks out from the functional greys and whites of the rest.

Hospital director Yulianus Mendrofa, 48, declares it his favourite. “It looks like a ship!” he says.

A tour inside the hospital shows it to be more congruous inside. White tiles line the floors, while wide corridors are left empty, to be converted to holding areas should disaster strike again.

Despite the foreign involvement, the Indonesians have been quick to stamp their character on the place.

A little nook under a ramp is converted to a cafe with makeshift tables and chairs.

A table tennis table is the centrepiece in an otherwise empty second floor corridor. Downstairs, another such table takes pride of place near the counter in the pharmacy.

Do the patients play table tennis, I ask Dr Mendrofa.

No, he says, the tables are meant for staff. “They like to play ping pong every day, after their shift.”

Dr Mendrofa has his work cut out for him, as his outfit still does not have enough funding or staff to operate optimally. Many of his staff have undergone training at Singapore’s Alexandra Hospital recently.

When asked what he would like to see change at his hospital after the Singapore stints, and he pinpoints something often overlooked: Bedside manners.

“I want them to handle their patients more professionally, like Singapore doctors and nurses. They speak nicely to their patients. Their patients feel comfortable.”

The little things still count, even if nature wreaks its havoc here now and then. (Straits Times 29 Dece, http://blogs.straitstimes.com/2009/12/18/little-things-still-matter)

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