Despite unbearable heat, lack of adequate medical equipment, and virtually non-existent roads, Comboni Brother Dr. Juan Carlos Salgado loves his job at St. Michael Hospital in Donomanga, Chad, a Catholic mission in the south of the country.
“I am happy to be here. Personally, I like the quiet village life compared to the stress of city life,” Bro. Salgado said. The mission has a hospital, primary and secondary school, pastoral centre, and catechumenate. Four Comboni Missionaries – from Mexico, Togo and the Central African Republic -run the mission.
Bro. Salgado’s work doesn’t come without challenges though. He is the only medical doctor at St. Michael’s. Three religious sisters, from Mexico and Guatemala, of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, help him manage the hospital. Including the local staff, there are only 38 people working at the hospital.
St. Michael Hospital has seventy beds divided into paediatric, surgery, maternity, and medical wards. There is also an operating theatre for general surgery. Every year an ophthalmology surgical camp with specialists from Spain volunteer at the hospital.
“My work begins with the ward rounds, followed by outpatient consultations, ultrasound studies, and minor surgeries. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for major surgeries, and emergencies are attended to at any time,” Bro. Salgado pointed out.
The work is challenging, but so is the climate. Chad is very hot, with temperatures staying in the 90s most of the year. There is a short rainy season from June to September followed by a long, dry season. Donomanga is also difficult to reach with unstable roads which are often flooded during the rainy season. It is a two-hour drive from Doba, the closest city for shopping.
When Bro. Salgado first arrived in Chad, he had a difficult time adjusting to the heat. Dehydration was a big problem, often leading to kidney stones. Malaria is also a concern. This past rainy season he suffered three malaria attacks.
The biggest challenge he faces as a medical doctor, though, is a shortage of experienced medical co-workers. “I don’t have a colleague to discuss clinical puzzles with.” While he has grown in confidence and decision-making, he also has had to rely on guidance from medical friends online.
“To work with limited resources is not easy at all,” Bro. Salgado said. Yet, somehow, he makes it work every day. “We are sensitized to avoid waste, and we recycle a lot. Sometimes we are forced to be creative and inventive.”