The fun of complaint collecting

"Saturdays at 9 o’clock are becoming my favourite time of my varied week..."

Saturdays at 9 o’clock are becoming my favourite time of my varied week. At nine, Taheer, one of our national staff, comes and we go around the complaint boxes. It might sound strange to pick the complaint collecting as my favourite task but there are not many complaints in the eight boxes we have around the hospital. The boxes are an important part of our hospital management and quality of service, as we need a way to know if our services are given in the right way and also to check we are respecting culture and customs in the country. For us transparency on all levels is important so I walk round with Taheer to make sure no one suspects that he tampers with the complaints, as they can sometimes be directed to certain staff or services.

MSF Afghanistan

Checking the complaint box at ER Department © Lara Jonasdottir

When walking between the boxes, I get to see one of the busiest times in the hospital, and every departement, as there is one box per department. People come from the neighbouring suburbs and they have sometimes never used medical services before. We have many female patients and when they visit us, they usually come in groups along with their children. That means that there are a lot of small kids running around, which is quite nice and every time I see little princesses and rascals I just really want to play with them for a little bit. Last week on our tour, I meet a little boy in a wheelbarrow. He was about two years old and was waiting there while his father took his older brother to the ER. His brother had broken his leg and had been transported to the hospital in the wheelbarrow. The two-year-old had no idea how to react to my greeting. It's hard enough being left alone in a wheelbarrow in a foreign place without a strange foreign woman talking to you.

Last week while taking the round I noticed things that I had read in the weekly reports from the medical department, such as the queue for vaccination was already quite long and becoming chaotic. The crowd controllers are necessary for our project as people try to get into the hospital before going to the triage unit, or just to visit family members. Unfortunately, we cannot allow an unlimited number of visitors to our patients as we already are suffering from patient overflow, which is hard to limit, but we can limit the visitors.

Our hospital is quickly gaining recognition by the community in Ahmad Shah Baba, eastern Kabul and we can see this from the rapid increase in patient numbers between years. This makes us very happy and it is rewarding but at the same time we face the task of how to cope with this increase as the hospital cannot just expand endlessly. There are plans for 24 new beds this year, and for a larger maternity ward.

We hope that with this channel of communication with the patients we can improve our service, as well as gaining the trust of the community. For us working here it is most important that the people feel safe to seek our services and that they trust it to be good.