Zaragoza Project to provide health care in rural El Salvador
mtnfund | February 5, 2009 at 10:03 amby
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Every weekday morning two physicians, two medical students and five nurses begin seeing patients at 6:30 am. The staff serves approximately 100 – 150 people a day. The facility is funded by the Salvadoran government and most services and medicines are free of charge, though some medications must be paid for. During my stay, I observed or participated in hundreds treatment procedures ranging from amputated fingers and “you’re gonna need stitches for that” lacerations, to respiratory therapy, skin rashes, treatment for rabies (a frequent problem), parasites (a more frequent problem), and Dengue Fever. Many mothers came to receive pre-natal and post-natal care. Children were frequent visitors there too, mostly for fever or influenza, check-ups and routine vaccinations.
The clinic continues to be an important educational center. The Unidad de Salud building houses not only the clinic, but also the city's Public Health Authority, which makes it the epicenter for community health and safety education.
Unfortunately, I also spent a lot of time cutting up swaths of gauze from a large roll and folding them into various shapes and sizes to create either bandages or gauze balls that would later have to be sterilized before use. Often, I had company, as this was an essential chore for the nursing staff. The clinic couldn’t afford alcohol prep pads, or pre-packaged, sterile bandages, so they had to be fashioned in this way. To compound the problem, there was a shortage of electricity so that equipment and bandages could be sterilized just once a day. In fact there were many days that patients were turned away because supplies like hypodermic needles and sterile dressings were unavailable.
Also, take note that the clinic had only one pair of crutches, one blood pressure cuff, no wheelchair, no ace bandages and lacked other standard equipment of a health care facility. It even lacked an adequate supply of simple but important items like hospital sheets, towels, scissors, pens and pencils, so that the same linens had to be used for multiple patients through the course of a day.
The clinic remains the only public health care facility for the entire city. It was in the face of these circumstances that I realized how much could be improved, rather simply, for the 35,000 people of Zaragosa that depend on this clinic.
The Benefit El Salvador: Zaragoza Project aims to raise $5000 to jump-start funding for this clinic. To see the full posting, visit their blog here.
The project is working in cooperation with The Mountain Fund, and this news piece was posted by project coordinator Noah Harper.