The crowd applauded and the cameras clicked as the first shovelful of cement dropped into the foundation of the new medical clinic in San Jose Villanueva, El Salvador. The ceremony signified the launch of a new phase in the Speroway plan to bring medical care to the disadvantaged people of this Central American country. Ken Dick, President of Speroway, was brimming with enthusiasm as he spoke on April 30th to the people of San Jose Villanueva, gathered in droves around the building site of the future medical clinic.
The 17 acre site sits perched atop a ridge overlooking a lush valley of banana and palm trees, with the Aquiquisollo River bordering the south side of the property. The rural community is just 25 km outside the city of San Salvador, but is a world away in terms of infrastructure and services. Along the paved road to the clinic, schoolchildren return home from the town centre, while farm hands and labourers trudge by on their way home from the fields.
Sonia Rodriguez, Chair and President of Operation Blessing, and Pedro Duran, Mayor of San Jose Villanueva, also officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony for the 3,200 sq. foot clinic. Sra. Rodriguez emphasized the strong partnership developing between Speroway and Operation Blessing in El Salvador. Operation Blessing, a Christian ministry organization with a base in El Salvador, has experience in medical clinic operation. They will provide administrative management of the new medical clinic, and secure medication for the local people. The two groups are working together to staff the clinic with doctors from El Salvador supported by visiting medical teams from Canada.
As a prelude to the opening of the new clinic, the Speroway team hosted a medical conference in San Salvador for the local doctors. Covering topics ranging from skin diseases to diabetes, hand fractures to cardiology, Canadian doctors Channy Muhn, Tony Brown, Elizabeth Russell and Steve Russell, and pharmacist Chris Ritskes shared their experience and expertise with their Salvadoran colleagues. Dr. Vilma, a 60 year-old female physician, was smiling as she applied a cast to her willing colleague in the casting workshop. “Could I have the leftover supplies for my clinic?” she asked. “Until today, I didn’t have the skills or supplies. Now, I would like to try.” The Speroway team was glad to oblige.
Grant Rumford, a paramedic from Halton Region, led sessions in CPR training with an enthusiastic group of medical doctors from various organizations in El Salvador. The doctors rolled up their sleeves and knelt over the CPR mannequins as Grant put them through their paces.
In the suturing workshop, the 54 physicians honed their skills as they put hundreds of stiches into foam sponges, an excellent medium designed to mimic human tissues. Many of the doctors appeared to be learning basic suturing skills for the first time, or at least the first time in a long while. One of the participants was Dr. Michelle, a 28 year-old recent graduate who works in a state hospital. She earns $400 per month, and supplements her income by teaching Spanish at an international school. By the end of the workshop, she was delighted to show off her stitching job to her colleague seated next door. The laughter and lively banter amongst this group just showed how much they were enjoying the day.
The Canadian group of health professionals also visited a government health clinic and met with the medical director, Dr. Salvador Flores, to better understand the workings of the local health system. The team exchanged ideas on clinic management and treatment protocols for diseases that are common in the local population. Plans are underway to augment the Salvadoran regimens with current medical standards in Canada, and adapt these for use in the new clinic.
The trip was the culmination of months of preparation and successfully launched the next phase of development of the medical clinic in San Jose Villanueva. The team continued to brainstorm new ideas over coffee in the departure lounge at the airport. There is an air of excitement over this new venture for Speroway, shared by the Canadian and Salvadoran medical staff and management team. With God’s blessing, within the next several months there will be a new outpost of excellent medical care in the hills of El Salvador.
– Dr. Steve Russell
For more information on Speroway’s Medical Clinic: www.speroway.com/el-salvador-clinic