Since kick starting this column we have featured various Tanzanians overseas. The majority have been artists, athletes, diplomats and politicians. We have had very few scientists, not because we did not want to, but hardly any crossed our paths and eyes.
And this week we have a doctor. Right now, and for the past several months, the focus in Europe – and the UK in particular – has been hospitals and treatments and.... and... hospital personnel.
In the UK, one of the most respected, esteemed institutions is the National Health Service (NHS) – a beloved, cherished and admired establishment. To give a good example of how fantastic and unique NHS is, let us compare here to the USA or Germany or if you could name any other big nation that will fit the following, er, description. If you are sick in those countries you MUST have insurance or pay to be treated. In the UK treatment is free.
You might have to pay for dentists, or your medication, but there are many who are exempted. Those aged 60 or over, have disability certificates, certain types of serious diseases ...also the low income (under 15, 000 pounds a year) or jobless.
As long as you can prove it, of course.
As you can see, the NHS here is one of the most beloved and fair systems of health in the world.
Last year I had a small surgery on my shoulder.
I was shocked how cordial and patient the whole NHS team behaved with me. It was the first time I had ever had a major thing at a hospital. But, boy, was I impressed.
Nurses, receptionists, doctors and surgeons were ALL really nice. I was surprised how certain patients could be rude to these hardworking folks. Some of these annoying people (with no sense of gratitude) do not understand – it is a free service.
Or take it for granted.
One afternoon during my regular visits, an impatient individual was upset when he was told to wait (slightly longer as that day was quite busy) for an operation.
“I prefer to pay! This is so slow!” He moaned to his friend and left angrily.
Such dramas are rare though. Most appreciate a thoroughly organised clean service, unheard of in other capitalist, rich and poorer countries.
Second thing that mesmerises about this organisation is how many of its workers are immigrants. Many high level Asian and African surgeons and nurses and doctors. Of course you find lower ranking workers (like cleaners) from minority races. And that is why recent statistics have pointed out deaths of black, Latin and Asian people who form the majority of the working force. Especially in lower ranks.
Stats indicate most of those affected by Covid 19 have been obese (making it 73 percent of patients in Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Sweden, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention) and BAME ( Black Asian Minority Ethnic)....and that is where you find our own star, Dr Gideon Mlawa.
I have seen Dr Mlawa for several years now. Meeting him whenever there are Tanzanian gatherings. Mentioned him in articles. Photographed him with other colleagues like the other hardworking Dr Hamza Aziz, for example. At the beginning of Covid 19, Dr Aziz was infected and BBC Swahili pundit Salim Kikeke, interviewed him.
Dr Mlawa is a specialist, consultant for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Acute Medicine.
A few weeks ago he was featured among heroes of the NHS. Lately, the NHS has been highlighted after many decades of being punched, ridiculed and ignored. The NHS saved the life of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May 2020. NHS personnel are now given priority shopping and do not have to stand in queues.
The Evening Standard, the free London newspaper, singled out Tanzanian Dr Mlawa, among others. There was a mention in a long piece by journalist Susan Butler on 12 June, 2020. There was also a 3.39-minute live interview with a sub-headline, “London NHS doctor, helping Africa battle coronavirus...”
Dr Mlawa spoke with his typical soft, serious, slow, modest, professional tone:
“As somebody from East Africa I am part of the Diaspora community where we do global health ...and for the past 10 weeks we have been running webinars in English and Swahili to try and share our literal experience of Covid with our counterparts in Africa whereby their pandemic of Covid they are maybe three or four weeks behind us...and whatever knowledge we have gained from being frontline staff we have shared with our counterparts in East Africa.”
Yes, being a doctor is a lifelong dedication. Dr Mlawa has made us proud to be part of a significant institution. Hopefully, one day he might physically bring that experience to East Africa.