By Daniel Smith
What do you think about a Rotary hospital?
There is a children’s hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador that is doing amazing things. Sometimes twice a month non-profits and volunteers from around the world come to the hospital to perform surgeries – free of charge. Patience find their own way to the hospital from all over Ecuador, Columbia and Peru just for a chance to be one of the few people chosen for cleft pallet, orthopedic, eye and other surgeries.
Dr. Ricardo Koenig is the president of the hospital and Past District Governor for District 4400 (Ecuador). Most of his management and senior staff are also Rotarian’s. This is a private hospital, founded in 1905, that has always been dedicated to helping children. But in Ecuador that is not easy.
When the Social Security system sends a patient it will usually take six to seven months for the hospital to get paid. That means the doctors, nurses, maintenance staff, even the utilities all have to wait until the check comes in. It takes some very dedicated people to put their lives on hold this way.
Cleft Lip and Pallet
They have an entire wing dedicated to children with Cleft lip and pallet disorders. The walls are decorated with pictures, painted by the children, to help them feel more comfortable. As many Rotarian’s in our district already know, this is not a one and done surgery, with before and after pictures. It can take years of multiple surgeries and psychological support for both the patient and their families. These kids have to learn to talk and learn to eat all over again. They have been bullied, and pushed aside for years so the whole family suffers.
Just getting to the first surgery is a massive undertaking. They publish the dates on Facebook and WhatsApp and people come from everywhere. The hospital staff is charged with screening, testing and taking x-rays for the candidates. They send the results to the teams in the U.S., France or wherever the doctors are. They then select those who they can help based on age, condition and the type of surgery. The patients are notified to come back for a final selection. They may or may not be chosen, but they are willing to come back and try. And that just gets them started.
Over the next several years they will undergo multiple surgeries, psychological counseling, therapies and learn how to do things all over again.
Talking with Rotarian’s and non-profits who do surgeries all over Ecuador, the biggest challenge is finding a hospital or clinic to perform the surgeries. Most of the clinics have their own patients and it is nearly impossible to carve out two weeks for a non-profit to come in and take over the facility.
Imagine hundreds of people, twenty plus surgeries a day for weeks, recovery, nursing care, all the things that go into a clinic. Having a dedicated hospital, a Rotary hospital, would solve that problem. It would put Rotary in the center. To support not only our own clinics but to work hand-in-hand with other NGO’s by giving them a place to do their work.
Not an easy thing to do, but interesting possibilities.