Today I met two extraordinary men working at the Centro de Salud (government health clinic) in Panajachel. Dr. Marlon Monroy is the Director of the clinic and Dr. Juan José Barrios is the clinic’s dentist. They are skilled medical professionals with a passion for caring for the local population of almost 40,000. About 40 patients per day come to this clinic which is open 24 hours a day. However, there is a huge problem. The clinic does not consistently have the supplies and equipment needed to care for the 1,200 patients per month.
I equate this dreadful situation to that of asking a talented artist to create a work of art… but providing no canvas, paints or brushes. It’s an impossible task. Likewise, doctors, dentists and nurses simply can’t adequately care for their patients – no matter how talented they are – without the right tools. The consequences are severe and can in some cases mean the difference between life or death.
At the Centro de Salud, the shelves in the bodega (central supply room) were pretty bare. Dr. Monroy reported that often the nurses have to ask patients to buy their own supplies (for example, gauze, gloves, syringes) from the local pharmacy.
Exam rooms have only the most basic equipment.
In the marernity area, Dr. Monroy has a very difficult situation because there is no easy access to toilets for women in labor or post-partum. Complications and deaths related to childbirth are a critical issue in Guatemala, and the staff agrees that the maternity ward at Centro de Salud Panajachel lacks sufficient infrastructure, equipment and supplies to truly provide acceptable quality.
For the dental clinic, Dr. Barrios reports that he is only able to do extractions and can do no preventive cleanings or fillings because robbers stole most of his equipment over the past year.
So, what to do? Honestly, my first instinct is to cover my eyes in despair and weep when I see a situation like this and then think of similar clinics and hospitals all across the developing world. The tremendous need is overwhelming and sits so heavy on my heart.
But then, I take a deep breath and try to figure out how the MedShare team or one of our amazing partners can help. Can we find a sponsor for another shipment to this area that could include supplies and equipment for this particular Centro de Salud? Is there a dentist that’s a “friend of MedShare” who might be interested in volunteering at this clinic with Dr. Barrios and bringing down some basic dental equipment? Just like an artist and her paintbrush, these doctors need the right supplies and equipment. How can we help them?
There are no easy answers and no happy ending to my story today. As I left the clinic, I promised to the doctors and nurses to see what I could do and thanked them over and over and over for their dedication to caring for their patients under very challenging circumstances.
Thank you to all of our generous MedShare supporters who make it possible for us to provide “paint brushes” to talented medical “artists” all over the world. I hope that we can find a way to help our friends at Centro de Salud Panajachel in the very near future.
Thanks for reading,