This month I joined Access Afya as the new Communications Fellow! It’s been a month of “I am a communications fellow with Access Afya” to my friends and family. But, mentions of Access Afya are accompanied with so many questions; “What’s Access Afya?” “A Social Enterprise, what’s that?” “How is Access Afya different?” I found that in my excitement of telling others about my new fellowship, many did not understand what we actually do as a health care social enterprise. So I starting telling people that our values: “At Access Afya, we believe every patient should feel cared about and understand what they are getting”– makes us unique, fresh, and different from the norm.
Being new at Access Afya is very exciting. I went through orientation and handover with the former communications fellow and met the team at the head office and planned to visit the clinic staff later in two different villages of Mukuru Slum. The one thing that stood out while familiarising myself with the teams, programs and protocols was the emphasis on the patient: care should always be patient centered, our care teams and processes stand out against the competition, and we work to provide a welcoming, comfortable, and friendly atmosphere for our patients.
I am a sociology major and I am interested in observation and research. The emphasis on patient centered protocols for the clinics was captive to confirmable objectivity. I needed to do a research with a clear baseline, to see what makes the organisation different and unique from other health care companies. I decided to visit the clinic staff to familiarise myself with the location and community but I decided that I was going to do it as a patient, rather than introducing myself as the new fellow. I wanted to experience Access Afya through the patient’s eyes.
I had my directions that I located on the website but also I wanted to try to get to the clinic from the main bus stage by asking the locals. I wanted to let the signposts for both clinics guide me. I also intended to call Access Afya and ask for direction; more than once.
First, I visited the Kisii Village clinic. I took a bus to South B. I alighted and asked for directions to Access Afya. I was pretty impressed that 11 out of the 13 people in Kisii Village that I asked for directions knew clinic location. With Sinai Village, only one person had no idea how to direct me. Interestingly, when I called the organization at both clinics after ‘getting the directions wrong’, they asked me if it would be okay if they called me instead and gave me a precise detailed direction. That was amazing! The signposts were also descriptive in terms of direction and distance. I did all that; the calling and asking the locals, for research purposes but the signs were enough to get me there.
I finally saw it. A small, blue and white clinic; similar to the colors used on the signposts. The clinic has clean white blue patterned tile, smells like spirits, antiseptic, giving an assuring hygienic scent. The clinic is small and has a waiting bay, a pharmacy that is right near the door; two other rooms for lab and consultation. . I was welcomed by a smiling receptionist who had a tablet in her hand. I found one patient in the waiting area and one just leaving the consultation room for the pharmacy. I really wondered why the patients weren’t holding any paper for reference. I am so used to being sent to the Lab or Pharmacy or the consultation room with my documents! This, was all new and strange to me. I was asked for my bio data and they impressively noticed that I was a new patient and asked me how I found out about the clinic as she filled in the details.
I used my first name and surname. Then I realised they were using technology on my first stop at Kisii Clinic and my records would be in the system, it would be hard to visit Sinai with the same intent. To avoid ‘getting caught’ I used a different name in Sinai Clinic.
I was then taken to the consultation room, had a sit down with the doctor, explained how I felt (gave out all the signs and symptoms of Malaria; I seriously hadn’t thought that bit out calculatingly!). He wrote some things on a tablet, had a chat with me about the possibilities of what was ailing me, excused himself and came back shortly after and explained what kind of test he was doing. A rapid test was done, and shortly he came back with the results; a negative malaria test. At the Sinai Clinic I was explained to, the possibility that I could be ailing on something other than Malaria because of my persistent tummy ache(a detail I added to Kisii clinics’ symptoms) and so, an intense lab test (stool test) was done in Sinai. This was also, unsurprisingly, negative.
The doctor addressed the headache concern, by giving me painkillers and advised me to come back, if it persisted. The medication was pretty cheap. He asked me to come back for a check up, the following week because I mentioned that I had a condition that needed regular check up. That was quick! The receptionist then asked me to confirm with her what date my check up was and wished me a good day as I left just as another patient got in; for consultation. No wonder, there was no queue!! I thought to myself as I left. I left the clinic smiling.
Then I finally let both clinics know that I am a new member of the team. They were surprised for a few seconds and welcomed me to the team just as warmly as they had when I was a patient in the clinics! I went back to work in the head office satisfied. The one thing that caught me off guard was getting a call from Access Afya customer care 2 days later to check my progress. This made my heart smile because I had never received a call from any facility to check on me after a visit. Being an Access Afya patient made me feel a sense of relief and actually made me feel cared for. The fact that my tests and medication was explained to me gave me assurance that I would be okay! Overall, it was an experience, I’d go back to!