Buçimas Clinic Reopens

Buçimas Clinic Reopens

May 22, 2020

When Albania went into lockdown in March, all but the most essential services were closed, and people were restricted to their homes. Nehemiah Gateway's clinic in Buçimas had to close down at that time. Normally, the clinic delivers a variety of services-- speech and physiotherapy, therapeutic massage, and other palliative and ongoing care-- to patients of all ages. It is one of the only places in the area that offers these services free of charge.

During the lockdown, almost all service at the clinic stopped. Many patients have lifelong conditions that would put them at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, so staying home was truly the best option. Also, with public transportation suspended, many of them had no way to get to the clinic.

Many patients have years-long relationships with clinic staff, coming in for ongoing care once or twice a week, year in and year out. Staff were concerned about suspending sessions, and worried that patients would regress. Although they worked with family members to coach them on in-home exercises, "you can't do therapy virtually," according to clinic director Nikoleta Xhindole.

Pogradec has no identified cases of COVID-19, and the Albanian government is slowly easing restrictions there, allowing the cautious reopening of facilities like the Buçimas clinic. This past Monday, the clinic reopened. Staff work in masks and gloves, and each therapist works in a dedicated room, with protocols in place for cleaning between patients.

Xhindole reports that the first week went well, with less cases of regression than she had feared. A few patients even made some modest progress working at home! It is a relief for everyone to return to work, and, for these dedicated caregivers, it is a relief to return to work with their patients.

Sara, 13, returned to the clinic this week. She has autism and epilepsy, and has been seeing NG speech and physical therapists for six years.