The New York Times: Surgery Lit by Cellphone: Togo Doctors Strike Over Deplorable Hospitals

Health care workers have moved to the forefront of a broad public uprising against the government.

  Dr. David Dosseh helped organize a series of health care worker strikes at Lomé’s central hospital, where he is a surgeon. “When you accept to work in these conditions, you might be complicit in a situation that could cause death,” he says. (Tim McDonnell)

Dr. David Dosseh helped organize a series of health care worker strikes at Lomé’s central hospital, where he is a surgeon. “When you accept to work in these conditions, you might be complicit in a situation that could cause death,” he says. (Tim McDonnell)

LOMÉ, Togo — The air-conditioner was broken in the sweltering neonatal ward of Togo’s largest hospital, and only one nurse was on duty to attend to the two dozen infants with life-threatening conditions.

Mothers with babies in the ward were imploring friends and family for loans to buy basic medical supplies from pharmacies around Lomé, the capital, because items like drugs, saline solution, latex gloves and packets of clean water were not available at Sylvanus Olympio University Teaching Hospital.

One infant, Tresor Tsolenyanou, was born in February with gastroschisis, a condition in which the intestines are partly exposed through a hole in the abdominal muscles. He shared a crib with several other babies, his bulging torso wrapped in gauze.

In the United States, the survival rate for gastroschisis is 90 percent. But because of the high risk of infection in this overcrowded, understaffed and undersupplied hospital, Tresor was likely to die, said Steven Kagni, the ward’s attending nurse.

Fed up with situations like Tresor’s, Togo’s public hospital workers are demonstrating their disgust with the level of care they are able to provide, adding their voices to a growing swell of political protests that have shaken this small, West African country.

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