Just as it has throughout the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted life at Lao Friends Hospital for Children and the finances of Friends Without A Border. Fortunately, there are currently only 19 confirmed cases in Laos, and only three in Luang Prabang. However, the borders have been closed for some weeks now, and everyone is under strict lockdown, with most non-essential businesses closed and travel in and out of villages restricted.
International volunteers — the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who often help with clinical supervision and guidance of Lao staff — returned to their home countries at the outset of the pandemic. In their absence, the hospital’s medical director and medical education director have been working around the clock to maintain high quality care for all of our patients and ensure that our local teams continue to learn and develop. The Lao staff have stepped up magnificently and shown great leadership and courage, taking on extra responsibilities and continuing to develop the service as well as their own skills.
The caseload in the Outpatient Department has decreased by about half to 50 children a day because families are afraid to risk exposure to the virus by leaving their homes. Many simply cannot find transportation. Those who do make it to the hospital are more likely to have advanced disease and may even be critically ill. The Neonatal Unit and the Emergency Room remain busy and patients continue to fill beds in the Inpatient Department. We anticipate that we will see many more such cases when the lockdown lifts.
The commitment to high quality, compassionate care, which is the cornerstone of our practice at LFHC, remains unchanged.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced us to cancel or postpone all of our fundraising events. The loss of revenue is estimated to be well over $750,000. We are short-staffed and we are financially strapped. Many families have lost their livelihoods through this pandemic (even the people selling food around the hospital are gone) and we anticipate that we will see an increase in diseases of poverty, such as malnutrition and infections, in the ensuing months, and that our role as the only free pediatric service in the country will be even more important than ever.
We know that everyone is hurting right now. You are all part of our LFHC family and we hope that you are safe and well. If there is anything that you can do to help and support us in this difficult time, whether by donating money, fundraising, and/or sharing this appeal as widely as possible, please know that every effort helps and that everyone at LFHC is so grateful.