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A visit to the doctor

December 18, 2012

“Excuse me miss,” the doctor said, dropping a second box of tablets on the floor. I smiled, but would rather have helped, for Dr Nalin Chandralal is no doubt tired; his nurse has gone away, so when he prescribes something, he has to get up from his desk and go to his small glass fronted cupboard, measure out the tablets, then pop his head out of a counter at the front to become the dispensing pharmacist as well.

Like lots of countries, you don’t make an appointment but rock up when it suits you between 4-7.30; I waited just half an hour to be seen, between a man who wanted a repeat blood pressure prescription and a wide-eyed baby with a bindi to protect her.

Entering through a blue curtain, the first minute of my time was spent spelling and respelling my name which Dr Nalin wrote at the top of his notepad. On his desk I eyed two children’s toys and a freebie stress reliever; on the wall, a Unicef poster reminded children to wash their hands after touching animals.  In place of a computer, a large blood pressure machine dominated his desk.

When I asked whether he’d recommend anti-malarials for my trip around Sri Lanka, he immediately answered ‘yes of course’. He got out his children’s drug book for 2009, and after reading the entry at length, said he’d prescribe chloroquine. Recognising the drug as being ineffective in south Asia, I asked him to identify it on the print-out I’d got from the American CDC which clearly said it was not recommended. He confessed goodnaturedly that it was his first time dealing with these medicines, and that in 8 years of practice he’d never seen a malarial case.

Making sure he knew I was a ‘fussy foreigner’, I shared the World Health Organisation malaria risk map that shows Sri Lanka in glaring red, still, but congratulated him on Sri Lanka’s efforts to eradicate it. He explained that a lot of work had been done in the field by doctors working in prevention in rural parts of the country – quite something when you consider the devastating effects of war and tsunami on those communities.

However the drugs that are recommended by UK organisations(doxycycline, for example) are rarely prescribed in Sri Lanka. Large teaching hospitals in Colombo would have access to them, but not anywhere else. However he agreed to try to get hold of some for me. “Why not,” he said, with a smile, and I wondered how much they’d cost.

It’s not often you walk away from the doctor with a promise that they’ll call you personally tomorrow, phone around to get you the specific drugs you request, and a website address for more information (Sri Lanka’s anti malarial campaign). Thank you Dr Nalin!

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 19, 2012 11:02 am

    And today I got a text message.
    “Dear Ms Nicola, u don’t need anti malarial prophylaxis. Have a nice holiday, Dr Nalin.” Guess that solves it then….?!

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