Our neighbour Made broke his leg a year ago in a moped accident. He’s still on crutches and can’t walk. He’s also in a lot of pain. He just came over to show me his leg and I did well to keep my breakfast down.
I’m not good with bodily secretions. Least of all yellow oozing ones.
The thing is Made and his wife Nyoman are poor. They are so poor that they have just enough to feed themselves. They certainly don’t have enough money to pay doctors’ bills.
We provide their only income – paying Nyoman to lay offerings around our house and to babysit Alula in the evenings when we go out.
But in a country where the doctors are generally so corrupt that only money talks and if you’re poor you die, that money isn’t enough to pay for a prescription.
I heard only the other day that the doctors here are bribed by pharmaceutical companies with cars and televisions. The payback? To keep babies away from their mothers for the first 36 hours so their milk dries up and they are forced to buy formula. This in a country where formula milk costs more than most people earn in a day.
My UK friend has recently returned to Bali with her 6 week old son. ‘He’s so fat!’ the Balinese gasp. He’s not. He’s a normal healthy weight for a UK child who is only breast-fed. But the Balinese are so used to poor diet and watered down formula that some don’t even recognize what is normal and healthy in a child.
In the same week I have sorted our health insurance – making sure that it includes evacuation – because the one thing I’ve learned is that if we get into an accident I don’t want to be treated here. As I tapped in my VISA number I felt sick with guilt and also overwhelmed with gratitude at my own situation allowing me to just buy my way out of difficulty. Here I was with the means to get the best medical care available whilst my neighbour cannot afford so much as an indigestion tablet.
We’re taking Made to the only clinic we trust in town for a second opinion and then we’ll make sure he gets the antibiotics and that he takes them properly (like the watered down formula, people tend to stretch out the antibiotics – thinking to make them last, not realizing they need to take them according to the instructions or it’ll only get worse).
Bali teaches you nothing if not the value of good deeds and gratitude for your own circumstances.
Then last night I was reading this article in the Guardian about the dismantling of the NHS in the UK. It painted a dark future of a private health care system discriminating against the poor, providing only the best services (and most expensive treatments ie. Chemotherapy) for those who can afford them. The UK will have a US style system run on market principles. Which is also a system open to abuse and corruption – as seen in Indonesia.
Can you imagine in the UK having your neighbour show you his puss-y leg and ask you if you can afford to pay his medication bills? How would you answer?
I have had so many questions this week running around my head and making me feel unsettled. But really I figured out, it boils down to just one…
…Where do we go from here?