Having participated in several missions in Honduras, Haiti and Guatemala, I tried to take mental notes of good and bad practices in order to make my own journey of building a charity project as efficient as possible.
While being there, I loved lots of things: diseases and patients. I hated a lot more: lack of medicine and bandage materials, faulty equipment and total absence of scheduling and business process management.
Haiti shocked me with the fact a patient could die if he/she or his/her family didn’t pay first. This was one of the reasons why I left the monastery where the mission took place. The situation was hard to look at, but I couldn’t do anything.
In Guatemala, patients were charged for appointments, but there was a huge medicine deficiency: we survived by purchasing the cheapest drugs, begged the Health Department for help, cut the course of treatment by half. My ID doctor’s heart was torn apart by this fact, but there was no other option.
I work at the Health&Help clinic now, helping people in low resources settings. The facility operates free of charge. It just the way it is.
We work our asses off to raise donations, money, provide the clinic with different kinds of medications and do everything in our power to avoid situations when there is nothing to treat our patients with.
All Health&Help patients are encouraged to make an affordable voluntary donation in the sum of $1 (for children), $2 (for adults) or $3 (for long-course treatment patients). I can’t help but stress the ‘voluntary’ part: no one should leave the clinic without a proper treatment course prescribed as well as tests and screenings completed - no matter their financial status.
The donations they make are an important part of their treatment course. No kidding. A free-of-charge medication is considered of a bad quality in Guatemala, like in most of the third-world countries. At the same time, $1 will not affect a family’s monthly budget that bad.
Another purpose of this donation is minimizing the number of patients who come to the clinic to chat. Naturally, many locals are amused by foreign doctors, coming to have a small talk, ask for a vitamin, or take their blood pressure... There are days when we don’t have time to pee because our waiting room is overflown with patients who really need medical attention, so donations help keep bored ones out of the clinic, giving us a chance to offer proper care to those in need.
As doctors, we should always pay attention to patients who require more than medical assistance: shoeless, poorly dressed, malnourished or out of school children. There’s a simple solution: giving them free clean clothes, appropriate for their age, talking to the family and asking why the child isn’t attending school, offering different program options: ‘Child hunger” – to the child, ‘Planned Parenthood’ – to the mother - could change a lot in their lives.
**We should always remember that doctor’s mission isn’t giving out medication; easing suffering, both physical and emotional, is one of the main aims of a medical professional’s career. **
By Viktoria Valikova