Enter Eva

My life is very busy these days.  Since Sophie left and Joseph is on vacation, I’m trying to juggle the work of three people.  I’m stressed and very tired.

My life is very busy these days.  Since Sophie left and Joseph is on vacation, I’m trying to juggle the work of three people.  I’m stressed and very tired.

I arrive at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. having several tasks to attend to before the Centres de Santé can open and function for the day.  I pick up boxes of vaccines stored inside cool boxes, retrieve the newly sterilized materials I deposited the evening before, grab any supplies I have ordered, and jump in the car to start my journey to work..

The first stop is Kalibatete, where I unlock 10 padlocks, drop off supplies or pharmaceuticals, and give instructions to the staff.  The clinic has been very busy the last few weeks and there are usually several patient care or staff issues, all of which I solve at 7:15 a.m.  Then back in the car, off to Mungele.  I arrive between 9 and 9:30 a.m..

The first order of action is to greet the staff with a "bonjour" and handshake.  I have only two to three hours to spend there, so I must organize my time wisely.  I see patients with the Consultants and Sage Femme (midwife), help with immunizations, see babies being born, help take the inventory in the pharmacy, and make long lists of things to do, order, print, or photocopy, once I return to the hospital.  I tell everyone I am returning to Lubutu at noon but it never happens.  Patients needing further evaluation at the hospital are loaded into the car and the engine starts.  Inevitably, a Consultant comes out running with another sick person needing transport to the hospital.  No problem, as that is why we are here.  We drive to their homes to get their personal belongings.  Patients supply their own food and wash their own clothes, so we sometimes have to battle as they attempt to bring more luggage than the vehicle can accommodate.

Finally we're off!  It's back to Lubutu, arriving about 2:30 p.m.  I stumble back to Couvent with an aching back, starving for my first full meal of the day.  Breakfast was a cup of bad coffee I drank at eight and a half hours previously.

Lunch, though the biggest meal of the day for the rest of the team, is small for me.  There is often little left to eat after 22 other hungry stomachs have been filled.  It is 3 p.m. and I generally have to attend meetings, to order items essential for both Centres de Santé, or document statistics.  Oh yeah!  Theoretically I am also supposed to pay attention to Kalibatete, the busy urban health center I am responsible for managing.

Unfortunately, due to this shift in my job description, I've been neglecting the place, spending between zero and thirty minutes there per day.  After my daily obligatory and rushed evening visit, I return back to the office for more computer work, begging for supplies, and preparing for the next morning, eleven hours away.

With all this work, my mood has been bad the last few weeks.

That was the state of affairs when......enter Eva Goossens.

Eva works for MSF Base in Kinshasa that manages all the Belgian projects in Congo.  We've been corresponding by email for several weeks, communicating mostly about training and education needs of the staff.  Fortunately, Eva morphed into my personal management consultant.  During the last two days she has visited both Mungele and Kalibatete, interviewed each staff member privately, and did a group exercise.

Afterwards she and I discussed her findings.  The people at Mungele are happy because I am there every day;  those at Kalibatete feel abandoned.  We talked about this unfortunate situation where there are not enough hours in the day to give the personnel at Kalibatete the attention they need.  Even starting at 6:30 a.m. each day and finishing 12 hours later, I cannot do it all alone.

This new work schedule has been killing me leaving me physically and emotionally exhausted.  Eva then gave me permission—virtually ordered me—to change the situation and especially decrease the travel.  This is a great relief.  With my new schedule, I'll be able to spend whole days at Kalibatete, more equally splitting my time between the two Centres de Santé.  In addition, Eva helped m recognize that some of the education I have been doing has succeeded, some not.  Yet even the less successful presentations were taking up a huge amount of my "free time" (Saturday nights and Sundays).  No more.  She helped me strategize on how to more effectively focus these educational efforts.

It has been wonderful to have Eva as a distant objective observer.  She has helped me view my job in a new light.  I cannot do it all and must stop trying.  Eva made me realize how I can get so focused on one routine that I fail to realize there are alternatives.  As an outside observer, she helped me “step out of the box”.

I am halfway finished here in Lubutu.  I've done some things right, but a few wrong.  Thanks to Eva's help, I have a second chance.