Monday, August 25, 2008


I experience Mongolian Health Service as a Patient

I suppose that there's no better way of seeing the health service in operation than to experience what it is like for the end user. That’s what happened to me on Sunday night, when I had to take a detour to the chest X-Ray department.

My problem had begun on the first night I reached here. Someone texted me in the middle of the night and I got out of bed to get the phone. Unfortunately I stumbled and fell heavily on my left ribcage.

I was in a bit of pain for the following 10 days, and there was quite an amount of bruising, but I thought that I was probably just bruised and didn't bother to see anyone. The pain subsided to a large extend until this weekend, when my activities aggravated the condition.

After work on Friday myself and Leo had headed out to the Terelj district east of the capital. It's about a two hour drive, and with the flooded rivers it took a little bit longer. We arrived at our Ger and after went out for a cycle on our mountain bikes across the plains.

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Our Ger in Terelj

That night we built a fire and whilst the cold wind was biting, we stayed out to watch the sky. Because of the lack of air pollution in Mongolia you have a marvelous view of the stars. We saw a very clear Milky Way, several constellations, a few satellites and a couple of shooting stars.

We also had a fire within the Ger, so although the temperature dropped during the night I managed to have a sound sleep. In the morning we went out for a ride on some Mongolian Horses.

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Our horses

I've been on horse a few times before but would not consider myself an expert by any means. The trotting managed to give me a bit of pain and my ribcage was aching a little.

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Lunch in our Ger

After lunch in our Ger we went canoeing for about 20km down the river. The temperature had picked up and it was quite a pleasant trip. However, I did notice an increasing level of pain in my ribs.

We got back to UB late and went out for a bite to eat. I got to bed by midnight since next morning I was accompanying the Senior Management Team to the countryside for an away-day.

We started off at the new monument to Chinggis Khan, about 40km outside the capital. It’s due to open officially in early September, but we were lucky enough to get an advance showing. Once again, I noticed the lack of quality on the construction techniques at the monument.

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The new monument to Chinggis Khan

I also got my chance to hold an eagle. Not the most thrilling experience of my life, but it did seem to be the thing to do.

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One very non-plussed eagle on my arm

We spent the day eating and talking about things in general, and specifically in relation to training needs within the health district.

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With the Senior Management Team

We took a break to watch the two Mongolian Gold medal boxing fights and also to see Kenny Egan’s fight.

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The Mongols go for gold in the boxing finals

The Mongols won one and lost one of their finals, but they were delighted with the result, and tears were evident. They were right behind Egan (A bit of the “Anyone but the Chinese” syndrome), but it was not to be.

On the way back to UB my pain started to get a bit worse, and when I mentioned it to one of the doctors he did a quick examination and announced that I had a fractured rib!

So, the minibus headed straight to the hospital, where we were brought to the X-Ray room.

After a bit of effort we finally managed to get an X-Ray taken. The result? I’ve been walking around for the last two weeks with a fractured rib.

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With Director Tungelag and Namjillmaa, awaiting my X-Ray result

They bandaged me up and gave me painkillers, and told me that I’ll be right as rain in about a month. I suppose the lesson is not to answer text messages in the middle of the night!

It didn't stop me travelling down to Nailakh district on Monday morning. Nailakh has a population of about 30,000 and is about an hour's drive outside UB. We met with the Governor of the Region, who told us about the problems facing the area.

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Myself and Chingeltei Senior Management Team with Nailakh's Governor

A key issue for them is the level of unemployment. When the Soviet Union collapsed many local factories closed - you can still see these derelict factories today.

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View of one of the derelict factories

One of the main sources of employment in the area is in mining for coal. As a result there are a lot of respiratory illnesses in the district. The aim of the Governor is to increase the number of jobs from tourism over the next decade.

These are a great series of posts Dominic. You are quite the calamitous traveller.
I thought that last picture was of the Pigeon House in Dublin!
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