Even though I am blessed with good health, I hate going to the doctor. Even for annual physicals, I can procrastinate ’till the cows come home and things seem to all work out in the end. But other folks are not so lucky. Here in “The Bubble”, we have access to a sophisticated medical care system orbiting around Sharps Hospital. You can safely undergo emergency surgery, even elective surgery, or consult with specialists of all stripes and all for a relatively reasonable amount of money. But that level of care is not universally available. To be clear, Mexico does have universal health care. Everyone can see a doctor, eventually. It’s the “eventually” part that’s the catch sometimes. We are all familiar with Nacho-the-jewelry-guy’s story. More than a year after developing acute leukemia & undergoing a not-so-timely bone marrow transplant, he went into renal failure and was need of his brother’s kidney. Nacho is now doing well but he fell into the “universal” category of Mexican health care. You can receive treatment if you are willing to wait…. and wait. In Nacho’s case, some generous people here at EDM were able to make it not about the money. But he still waited. In Mexico, if you are a union member, your employer-paid social security allows you access to the IMSS Health Care System. There, they are very good at stitching up cut eyelids but perhaps not so good at diagnosing leukemia.
In the case of Barron, residents (and their families) who are employed by EDM can travel to the Villa Union IMSS clinic and wait to see doctors who are fresh out of med school. All graduating MDs are required to put in a year of service in a rural area. But if you are self-employed or work under-the-table, you fall into the “seguro popular” category and must travel into Mazatlan and wait on line at the clinic for a referral to the General Hospital. Faced with this excruciating choice, none but the most seriously ill people in Barron ever seek medical attention.
And herein lies the problem. Mexico is one of the fastest developing countries in the world (the “M” in the MINT countries. MINT is the new BRIC). But places like Barron are being left behind medically. And there is just enough poverty and illiteracy there to bring the medical care delivery system to a halt. This is when it’s time to step in and do something. I am proud to say that a certain Dr Bonnie McGuire has taken a germ of an idea, a long-ago promise to her dad to give back after medical school, to certain reality. On March 17 – 21, a team of medical personal will open the pilot Barron Consulotorio Medico. Using the temporarily redecorated Ejido meeting hall in Barron, a team of four to five doctors, three to four nurses, a paramedic and some Spanish-speaking volunteers will invite any and all Barron residents in for a check-up.
We have done a lot of research in anticipation of this effort. In Mazatlan, the local Rotary Club puts on one-day clinics in the out-lying barrios of Mazatlan regularly. We have met with their core team, Dr Enrique Prado, Dr Miguel Patino and Juan Lluasas (well-known in “The Bubble”) as well as Dr Leved Torres Guzman and have figured out a plan. The Plan involves the services of Dr Rod Kaasa and his son Ben, both Canadian Family Practicioners and EDM owners. They, along with Dr McGuire and her team of Connecticut nurses form the nucleus team. Throw into the mix another Spanish-speaking nurse from Denver (hopefully) and some Spanish-speaking technicians willing to do base measurements and you have the makings for a clinic. We expect to see a lot of hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, internal & external parasites, as well as the good measure of acute injuries and illnesses. We will be prepared to treat minor injuries and illnesses, educate the chronically ill and Dr Leved has agreed to accept up to 25 referrals for those with serious medical conditions requiring further attention. As stated, this is a pilot effort. We’ll know a lot more then we do now on March 22.
FOB CANAM is the organizing entity behind this effort. Dale Lyster and Dick McGuire have been working relentlessly for the past month interviewing people, lining up supplies and planning contingencies. Once again, EDM residents and friends-of-residents have stepped up to the plate to make this happen. As mentioned above, our own Rod Kaasa and his son will be there in the trenches along with total strangers. Our EDM family has donated the use of condos to house the Connecticut nurses (A BIG thanks goes out to Dave & Elaine Greiner, The “Loose Cannons” group in 209 and Lance & Jeremy from Winter Park and perhaps others) to house these strangers who are about to become friends. We have people here waiting for their arrival (we call them concierges) to help with transportation and food shopping, the two bugaboos haunting short-term visitors to our fair isle. Pre-thanks are due to Kim & Heather, Marcia Pratt, Dale & Marilyn Jarvis, Jack & Debbie Gilman and Bob & Julie Wallace who will assume the Mother Hen role for our visitors. There are a few other medical professionals who have not yet committed to the project but who may very well arrive. We have a Plan for that also and may have to thank another whole group of people. I can’t thank Claire Silk enough for doing the footwork necessary to line up these condos and participate in the many planning meetings. Because of privacy issues, people well-known to Barron residents cannot participate in the collection of sensitive medical data so we are turning to some friends from Ft Collins, Colorado, Dave & Lindy Marvin, to put their newly acquired Spanish skills to the test as they collect BMI, BP and EKG data on each patient. From there, patients will see a Spanish-speaking triage nurse who will direct them to the waiting doctor/nurse teams in one of five examination rooms set up at the Ejido headquarters.
Finally, I’d like to talk about the Barron Ejido. They are offering use of their meeting hall for a week. FOB CANAM has met with the entire Ejido body twice to explain what it is that we plan to do. The Ejidarios have elected a new president, Andres Ibarra Velarde, a relatively young and energetic leader. They understand that potential future events will require them to get a little more skin in the game. I can’t help but think that we are starting to pave this road to our mutual benefit. Plus, if you really want to give-back, there isn’t a better place in the world to have your headquarters.