When you need A&E in Bolivia

I live in Bolivia. There are a lot of road accidents in Bolivia.

This morning, the son in the family I live with was in a car crossing a busy road when a drunk driver barreled across on red. The drunk driver hit them side-on, right where my Bolivian brother was sitting, flipping their vehicle.

Fortunately, he saw the car in time to fling himself towards the other side of the vehicle. He has no injuries, but he still needed to get checked out in hospital.

One tomography cost the family 1,500Bs. That’s about £161 or $210.

For context, I recently learned that entry-level office work in Cochabamba pays, apparently, around $200/month before tax. Most Bolivians don’t work in offices. Whole families might not earn that in a month.

This is just one example of what happens when you have to pay for medical care. It isn’t the starkest example. Just the most recent. A family I’m friends with were forced to sell their home and construct a makeshift one from tarps and wood to pay for their son’s leukaemia treatment.

On a recent first aid course, the trainer explained that in the entirety of Cochabamba, a city of around a million people by some figures, there are perhaps 15 ambulances, of which many belong to volunteer-run organisations such as SAR. If you were in one of Bolivia’s many bus crashes and everyone on board needed medical attention, there simply would not be enough ambulances for them all, even piling patients three to an ambulance.

In the UK, this would have been so different. Thanks to the NHS, our national health service which provides free healthcare, there would have been no charge for the tomography or the leukaemia treatment. Academically, most Brits know how lucky they are to have free healthcare, but it’s times like this when you feel that gratitude from the heart.

That’s why I’ll always be dedicated to safeguarding our NHS.

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