It was 10th May 2022 and I was looking forward to visit one of Friendship’s floating hospitals. In its work in remote regions that are deprived of even the most basic of services, Friendship’s first priority was saving lives and from its very beginning Friendship created an innovative solution- a floating hospital. Friendship’s aim is to have seven of these floating hospitals in Bangladesh which will provide many health care services such as surgery for common conditions, gynaecological and obstetric care, dental and eye care, general and paediatric care, cervical and breast cancer screening and maternal health care.
These hospitals are now part of an integrated three tier system, designed to ensure that healthcare is available to all in Friendship’s areas of operation. In addition to the hospitals (tier 1) the system includes Satellite and Static Clinics (tier 2) where satellite clinic teams regularly visit isolated communities, spreading awareness of available health services and providing access to essential healthcare in communities far from hospitals. Tier 3 consists of Community Medic Aides and Skilled Birth Attendants. These are women trained by Friendship from within its working communities to deliver primary healthcare services daily to their patients doorsteps. In addition to these three tiers of care specially trained community health care workers use Friendship’s mobile phone based system (mHealth) to collect and store patient data, diagnose common conditions, and connect remotely to a doctor’s centre for prescriptions and assistance when necessary.
I started my visit by seeing the infrastructure that was built around the hospital. This consisted of two separate buildings for men and women to wait and sleep in and a kitchen and washroom.
The first patients that I spoke to were Nasrin who was 13 and Zakira who was 12. Nasrin had recently had surgery on her clubfoot and was waiting to have her plaster changed, whilst Zakira who had recently received surgery on the same condition was at the hospital for follow up treatment. I then went into the waiting room where I met Shapna. Shapna had lived in the remote islands of Bangladesh all her life and like so many other people in the community she was suffering with cataracts. She was unable to visit a mainland hospital because her island was so isolated and remote that travel was both difficult and expensive. She was now able to have her surgery on the hospital ship and she waited in the waiting room for her surgery that was to take place imminently. I was struck by her pride, her kindness. She had struggled so much in her life yet she remained resilient and hopeful. She was dressed immaculately and although her eyes were blurred with cataracts, I could see the strength in her eyes. I wanted to paint Shapna with emotions such as resilience and hope screaming in pride from the canvas and I wanted the background to be clear, crisp and defined just as her eyes and vision would be after the surgery thanks to both her determination and the help of Friendship’s floating hospital.