Saturday, May 17, 2008

Perspectives on Health Care in Belize

At this point I have my main programs underway including working in an outpatient facility in San Ignacio Hospital, a community-based public hospital, and providing home visits for various children with disabilities in the San Ignacio and Santa Elena region. My work at the hospital is fairly organized with a 2 hour afternoon clinic 5 days a week where I treat mostly older patients with orthopedic overuse injuries. There is a local therapist who is only available for Friday afternoons, so it is pretty rewarding to make myself available for free services to reach more patients on a regular basis which in-turn means more effective therapy.

This past week I started working for CARE Belize which is an organization providing home services to disabled children ages 0-6 years in many districts throughout Belize. Most of my clients are actually children who have been discharged from the program recently either due to a lack of resources or limited progress. I have met with several of the families at this point to learn of their needs and to schedule weekly visits. So far this has been the most difficult to manage personally due to the severe lack of resources. Belize does not have the health care system or infrastructure to support those with disabilities.

I recently met a single mother with twin 10 year old boys diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In order for them to get a proper education their mother has to wheel them both in an over-sized wheelchair over dirt roads and carry them up a flight of stairs just to reach the classroom. She has to attend to them throughout the school day because the teachers do not have the time or education to assist with their learning. She must then wheel them home from school so they can use the restroom and have lunch, then return for afternoon classes. Just from my brief visit with this family, I know one of her sons could be ambulatory with the proper surgery, bracing, and durable medical equipment. In the very least they could both use power wheelchairs for independent mobility, but then of course there are many barriers to this option.

Coming from the United States where there is strong advocacy for disabled populations as well as a multi-disciplinary team to meet their many medical needs, this is a difficult and frustrating process. I am not sure where to start and what impact my skills may have. At the very least I will hopefully be able to share some knowledge and have fun with the children I meet. I have to say, these are some of the strongest individuals I have met in my life. What an experience.


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