Strengthening Health Care in El Salvador
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
Access to basic healthcare in Central America largely depends on socioeconomic status and environment (urban or rural). El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have worked to improve access and quality of care, particularly in rural settings. Despite improvements to health services and systems, rural populations still have difficulty accessing basic health services.
Compared to the United States and other high-income nations, physician density in El Salvador and other Central American countries is quite low. According to recent data, there are approximately 1.6 physicians per 1,000 people in El Salvador. The World Health Organization estimates that countries with fewer than 23 healthcare workers (including physicians, nurses, and midwives) per 10,000 people will likely fail to achieve adequate coverage rates for primary healthcare, as defined by the Sustainable Development goals.
MedShare continues to work with its partners to improve health outcomes and save lives in some of the more remote areas of El Salvador that lack basic health care necessities. About three hours away from the capital city of San Salvador is a small town named Ciudad Barrios, known for its coffee production, green mountains and cool climate. Bumpy trails and steep cliffs find their way through the narrow roads as they reach the highest point of the city and right there, just where nature seems to have taken over civilization, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero National Hospital can be found.
Monsignor Romero Hospital, as it is also called, was named after a widely known Salvadorian martyr, who dedicated his life as a catholic priest to advocate for the poor and vulnerable people in El Salvador. He was born in Ciudad Barrios, so his life and sacrifice are deeply cherished by the locals. After operating since the 80’s as a medical center, the hospital was taken over by the Ministry of Health and turned into a public health hospital to care for the towners.
Dr. Helman Turcios, Medical Supplies Advisor at Monsignor Romero Hospital, shares how it is not easy to provide health care in the isolated town. “It is good to be part of the public health system because we know that we have an entity to go to when we need something; however, the budget is not always according to our needs and procurement processes can be delayed.”
Due to primary care supply donations from MedShare and World Vision, Monsignor Romero Hospital has benefitted with medical supplies that will help provide immediate response to patients whenever it is required. “The hospital cares for around 40 patients every day and provides medical consultation for about 90 people in the same period of time, so resources tend to run short frequently,” Dr. Turcios shared.
Through the donations, Monsignor Romero Hospital will be able to continue providing quality service to low income patients in Ciudad Barrios town. “With this donation, we know that we have quality medical supplies to perform procedures on patients whenever they are required and not whenever resources are available.” Dr. Turcios expressed.
“It is great to know that we will not have to buy these supplies for over one year (15,000 patients), so we will be able to reinvest that budget in other actions that the hospital needs in order to guarantee quality treatment for our patients,” Dr. Turcios said eagerly. “We are more than grateful for this donation! Surely it will help us to save lives! Thank you!”
All too often primary healthcare is a weak link in health systems. Over 400 million people worldwide lack access to essential health services typically delivered through primary healthcare. According to WHO, over 10 million children under the age of five who live in developing nations, die annually due to inadequate medical care. Potentially life-saving surgeries are cancelled due to the lack of basic supplies like sutures, clean needles, gauze and alcohol wipes.
Since 1998, MedShare’s Primary Care Program has aided in strengthening the El Salvador health system by:
- Providing 44 forty-foot containers of medical supplies and equipment valued at over $4.5 million and serving 550,000 patients in the country.
- Provisioning 17 medical mission teams from 9 different non-profits, humanitarian aid and healthcare organizations with over $10,000 in medical supplies.