As we wrap up another year filled with patient care, community outreach projects, and generous volunteer work, we are excited to re-launch the Hospitalito Atitlán Blog.
Earlier this fall we were grateful to have Dr. Ken Dolkart, an Internal Medicine specialist from New Hampshire, as a volunteer. Here he shares his experience spending an afternoon at a Día de Salud, or Health Day, a program funded by the Strachan Foundation that provides provisional clinics and health education in three rural communities of Santiago Atitlán.
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We pile equipment and ourselves into a pickup truck that soon climbs the roads south of Santiago Atitlán. Javier, a volunteer gynecologist-obstetrician from Spain, Chelsea, our Global Health Fellow and Family Practitioner, Bianca, program coordinator, a cadre of support staff, and myself are piled in amongst the medications and other supplies. Curving mountain roads are obscured by a rising mist, but the driver, Lino, knows the route to El Carmen Metzabal well. This is a finca, or plantation, whose impoverished workers grow coffee beans for export.
The clinic is a two room shelter from which a bare electric bulb hangs by a single wire from the ceiling. Wooden benches and tables serve as intake, and a makeshift pharmacy accommodates the needs of waiting mothers and children. A generator across the street starts, lightbulbs come on, and as chickens scratch next door, a portable ultrasound machine comes to life. In the adjacent room, numerous expectant women receive expert evaluation with, paradoxically, state of the art technology for maternal-fetal health.
This afternoon, we treat at least 30 women and children contending with infectious diseases such as diarrhea, parasites, impetigo, and dengue fever as well as diabetes, hypertension, anemia, respiratory ailments and nutritional issues. Although the larger unsolved issues related to poverty clearly lie before us, here there is regular care that would otherwise go unprovided for this vulnerable population.