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?

5 thoughts on “Let’s think about this for a moment

  1. Rob says:

    Wow, I hope Made makes a full recovery. We have had experience of doctors in Indonesia needlessly prescribing drugs to patients when the problems were physiological then happily prescribing more and more drugs to treat the side-affects of the first lot of drugs, the patients are treated as cash cows to be milked.

    Are you thinking of leaving Indonesia? We have just booked our tickets to go and live their next year and your blog has been inspirational and given us the courage to finally get on with our adventure.
    Thank you,

  2. Livin_Thru_Arts says:

    There needs to be more people like you in the world Sarah. Good on you for doing what is right and for helping your neighbours out.

    1. boublog says:

      Thanks Braiden! Am still trying to locate this antibiotic he needs. You can’t get it in Indonesia. Grrrrrr pharmaceutical companies evil.

  3. I had my 3 children in Guatemala in a private system where only money talks, as there was no other realistic option. THey really don’t want you to have a natural birth as that is far too cheap and there is no money in it for them. Luckily for me my births were so fast that they didn’t get chance to do anything expensive. In fact my second was born in the side of the road in the ambulance.

    No midwives were available and i heard the same kind of stories that in the hospitals they would try to give you a ceaserian or your baby formula when you were recovering. Luckily I was very informed about all the issues.

    Nestle Nestle Nestle you now what you doing.

    I came back to the UK when my first was 3 months old and kept telling people stop moaning about the NHS because you have no idea what the alternative means to society.

    IN Cuba now so, at least for a few years my family and I are no longer in that sick world of private health that only works because drug companies run it.

    Great post Sarah. An issue very close to my heart.

  4. Tara Lindis says:

    A few months ago Indonesia tried to make the formula corruption illegal – and get mothers back to their babies. If anything, with the corrupt health care those Indonesian babies need to be breastfed and all the help they can get. That said, I don’t trust that Indonesia has scores of lactation consultants available or the help women need when they do struggle with breastfeeding (given US breastfeeding rates, I can’t say we have that here) so who knows if it will do anything. Great post!

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