MedShare visits Ecuador’s Amazonian Region

By Amanda Paniagua, Shipments Manager, MedShare

Paztaza Province, Ecuador

This week, thanks to a generous grant from an anonymous benefactor, MedShare’s Regional Repesentative in Ecuador Marco Galarza, MedShare supporter Dr. Dan Goldberg, and myself, Shipments Manager Amanda Paniagua, have had the remarkable opportunity to visit several recipient health care centers in Ecuador’s Amazonian basin.  We arrived at midday on Monday in Puyo, the capital city of Pastaza Province, to the warmest of welcomes.  The Municipal Government of Puyo, which has just sponsored the shipment of two containers of medical supplies and equipment from MedShare for the local healthcare system, had prepared a most touching ceremony for us in the Coliseum, complete with a brass band and local press!  After speeches by the Mayor Mr. Gérman Flores, his wife and President of the municipal charity foundation Mrs. Jimena Brito, and other community representatives, donated walkers and PET vehicles were ceremoniously presented to local disabled children, adults, and the elderly.

Mrs. Jimena Britos presents PET cart to young Daniel Vargas, who has Cerebral Palsey

Puyo community members at Ceremony in Coliseum. Medical supplies from containers are displayed behind

After lunch, we were taken on a tour of Puyo Hospital, one of the central Ministry of Health referral hospitals for the entire Pastaza Province, a territory that expands over 29,800 square km and 60,000 inhabitants!  “The hospital is running over 300% capacity right now,” said Dr. Barroso, Chief of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Municipal charity foundation that sponsored the container.  “The average hospital stay for is 3-5 days per patient, and we don’t have enough beds.”  As luck would have it, MedShare received a donation of electric hospital beds just in time to include 26 on one of the two containers that were shipped to Puyo in December.

Puyo Hospital’s jurisdiction includes thousands of square miles of thick Amazon jungle, where seven different ethnic tribes live in tiny rural settlements without electricity, running water or roads to Puyo city.   In many of these indigenous communities, the only way to reach the hospital during medical emergencies is by small planes called in via two-way radio.  But when the weather is foggy or rainy, which happens frequently, the planes can’t fly.

Happy family at Puyo Hospital. These two boys were being treated for skin abscesses caused by jungle insect bites.

During our hospital visit we met a young boy who had been bitten by a poisonous snake in his jungle village and had been flown into Puyo in under emergency evacuation.  He was a member of the Waorani tribe, which was explained to me to be the most isolated out of the seven indigenous tribes.  The child had arrived naked, as the Waorani traditionally wear only very beautiful and intricate head adornments and body paint, so the hospital staff had dressed him in a pair of pajamas.  When we visited, he was visibly scared of the strange surroundings, but was receiving the best of medical care and was expected to make a full recovery.  Snake bites are one of the most frequent medical dangers seen in this region of Ecuador.

One of 26 hospital beds Puyo received from MedShare on recent container

The Ministry of Health and the Municipal government are obviously deeply committed to their people and are working tirelessly to improve the health care delivery system to reach those in the most isolated areas.  While at the Puyo Hospital we met a young mother from the indigenous Kichwa tribe who had been flown in from the jungle community of Pakayacu with her infant daughter.  The child was eight months old, but due to extreme malnutrition, weighed only a staggering 3500 grams- about the average weight of a healthy newborn.  Chief Nurse Irma Naveda told me that these critical cases of malnutrition had been a chronic problem in that particular village in the past years, but thanks to the efforts of a 4-person medical team stationed by the Ministry of Health a few years ago in Pakayacu, they the rate was reduced by over 50%.

MedShare is fortunate to have such qualified, committed partners as the Ministry of Health and Municipal government of Puyo.  Deep thanks to Mayor Gérman Flores, Mrs. Presidente Jimena Brito, Dr. Barroso, Nurse Irma Naveda, and all others for their warm hospitality and for showing us their outstanding work in the public health system of Paztasa province. Their dedication and love for the local people is truly an inspiration. MedShare is fortunate to have such qualified and committed partners, we hope to work together again on more containers for Paztaza Province very soon!

Dr. Barroso and disabled patient Sr. William P. with donated PET Cart

Puyo Hospital

Young mother and child. Teen pregnancy is a chronic problem in Pastaza Province.

Mother and child with Down Syndrome being treated for respiratory infection

MedShare's Shipments Manager, Amanda Paniagua, center

Special thanks goes to Marco Galarza for all his hard work coordinating this donation.