The day has finally arrived and Clinicas Medicas San Jose accepted its first patients on Monday april 11th, 2011. As way of background, I had begun working with From Houses to Homes last September with the intention of managing the health clinic that was being built. 7 months later we've opened our doors.
The mission of Clinicas Medicas San Jose is to provide health care services to the clients of De Casas a Hogares (From Houses to Homes), the community of Pastores, Guatemala, and the children and families in the Cambiando Vidas School Project, by helping individuals achieve their highest levels of health through outpatient care, preventative care and health education, while respecting their cultural traditions.
The week before opening, a "from houses to homes" family member came down with pneumonia. He had seen a couple of doctors who referred him to the local hospital which refused him based on the idea that he only needed medicine and not a hospital. I was nervous after hearing that 'he could die', especially because we weren't ready to recieve him. He arrived Monday afternoon on our first day, saw our general medical practitioner who examined him; gave him a nebulizing treatment, where medications are inhaled; and prescribed some additional medications which he was able to pick up in our pharmacy. How's that for a first day? I haven't seen him since but I understand that he was OK and that it was true - he didn't need a hospital, just a doctor who had what it took to give him the care that he needed.
Our patient count continues to go up from 8 on our first day to 30 on our 7th. I believe the word is getting out and we are now struggling with 'who' and 'how much' to charge. Our 'from houses to homes' families are very poor. There are also some families in the Pastores community who are poor and some who have a small ability to pay. For now, we're not charging our families in our two projects - From Houses to Homes and the Cambiando Vidas schools and we're charging a very small amount to those in the community of pastores.
I'm of the opinion that all should pay a small amount so that there is a commitment on their part to taking care of their health and there is value associated with it. But my reasoning breaks down when I think that it could keep them from coming. Certainly I don't want to charge for well care because it's historically the case here where people go to the doctors only when they are sick. This is one of the things that we're trying to change.
These are some of the questions that we ask ourselves and will be answering over the coming days. Any opinions?
I'd also like to share with you a few pictures from our dedication ceremony on the 11th. Unfortunately they're on shutterfly so you have to click under an ugly black box to get to them. The one on the terrace is me with the clinic team - just in case you were wondering.