Friday, February 02, 2007

Medical Care In Ecuador....Great if you can afford it.

It was a beautiful day here in Ambato and as I was walking through the Montalvo Park I noticed so many people who walked with a limp, that I am sure has been with them since childhood. Many of their problems, I am also sure, could have been corrected if detected early. And early detection, especially with the poor, is out of the question.

Outside of my visit to the dentist, I have not had to visit a doctor since I have been in Ecuador, however I have talked with enough people who have, to know that it is expensive for the average worker. Fifteen or $20.00 per visit may not seem like a lot, but to someone who takes home less than $200 per month it is tough. The visit is always followed with a trip to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled, so there goes another $5 to $10 bucks or more. But what if your kids are sick and you don't have a job which means you don't have any money. No money, no service.

When I first heard stories of people being denied service for an emergency because they had no money to pay, I did not believe it. I decided to take a poll and the result was the same. No money, no service. Today I asked one of my employees here at the spa who lives in Salasaca. This is the conversation:

Me: When a person in your family gets sick and needs to go to the doctor, where do you take them?
Carolina: To a doctor in Ambato.
Me: Why Ambato....Aren't there any doctors in Salasaca?
Carolina: No.
Me: If you have no money will they treat you?
Carolina: No. Our families are large and they know that if we have no money we need to first go to all the relatives and borrow the money.
Me: What if it is an emergency with your child and you have no money?
Carolina: You still need to have the money or there is no service.
Me: What happens if you can not get the money quick enough?
Carolina: Sometimes the child dies.

I have basically had this same conversation with at least a half-dozen people, in different levels of society and the story is always the same.

So what is the solution? I believe that in a free, democratic society, every man, women and child should have the right to medical care. It is a tragedy that people sometimes die because they are denied service.

In Salasaca, a clinic is needed. If I was a retired doctor I would take on this project. But I am not. Maybe someone who reads this blog is. This could be a great opportunity for retired doctors and nurses who wanted to keep on working even when they didn't need the money.

More on this subject later.

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