Tuesday, August 19, 2008


On LMFM from Mongolia

Before I left Ireland I did a radio interview with LMFM's "Loose Talk" show about my forthcoming visit to Mongolia. After the show we agreed that I would do an interview from Ulanbataar, to give an update on how I was getting on.

We arranged a time for the interview and I found a quiet room in the VSO building. Although I could hear Gerry fine I think that he had some problems hearing me, so I'm not sure how good the quality of the sound was when the broadcast went out.

Dom 002

On the phone to LMFM

I got to visit Chingeltei's two "Polyclinics" today. They are located in separate buildings next to each other and house various clinics, including the Sexually Transmitted Disease centre, Ear Nose and Throat centre, the Tuberculosis centre, Cancer centre, Cardiology, Gynaecology, trauma, infectious diseases and eye surgery.

The Sexually Transmitted Disease and TB centres had recently been done up, thanks to funding from international donors. The incidence of TB is quite high here. There were 370 new cases diagnosed in the district last year, roughly about 1 per day. I asked whether any research had been carried out as to where cases were coming from. Seemingly there is a higher probability of the disease being found in residents from Ger district 7 and Ger district 12. When I asked whether these districts shared a commonality I was told that they were both close to the cemetery (the cemetery is huge and stretches for kilometers!). The doctors suggested that some people may have built their Gers over old graves and that this might have had an effect. I have no idea whether there is any medical link between TB and graves, but it was an interesting observation.

I was shown the Chest X-ray machine, which is specifically used for TB cases. the machine is quite dated and seemingly breaks down a lot.


Chest X-ray machine from the '70s

I also got the chance to avail of some treatment myself, although I politely refused. I have had a sty in my eye for a few days now, brought on by a sand storm last week, I think. Anyway, it's nearly gone now but during my interview with the eye specialist she noticed my eye and suggested that she examine it. I agreed and before I knew it she was shipping me down to the treatment centre to get radiography heat treatment on it for a short burst of 8 minutes. Once again, I have no medical expertise to say whether this is the usual way to treat eye stys, but by the time I reached the centre I told my translator that I was happy to go without it.

The Surgery department deals with minor procedures, such as abscess removal and ingrown and infected toe-nails. When I arrived a young lady was having a toe-nail treated, so I didn't stay long. After each procedure the scalpels are sent for sterilisation, but don't return until the next day. Because there are so few they often run out of sterilised scalpels around lunchtime. When they do, any patients who are waiting are sent home and told to come back the next day.

After lunch I visited the Asian Development Bank and had a discussion with the Country Officer. He explained that Ireland was now a shareholder of the bank (we have 12,000 shares, or about 0.3% of the share capital). He's very optimistic for the country, pointing out that there are vast reserves of minerals such as coal and uranium. He thinks the country will grow and prosper in the not too distant future.

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