Health Care: A Human Right, by Charlie Miller

On June 4, 2013, in Uncategorized, by Tim Broyles

Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental healthcare. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.

–UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 24.2

A popular topic of debate in America today is healthcare. Some people think that everyone should have healthcare provided by the government while others think that everyone should have a choice whether or not to get their own healthcare from private companies. While this seems like an important debate, we often forget that there are many people who do not have the luxury of choosing whether or not to have healthcare. There are many who depend completely on the good will of others to receive their healthcare.

San Lucas Parish Hospital, San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala

In the indigenous Guatemalan town of San Lucas Tolimán, the San Lucas Mission does its best to provide healthcare to as many people as it can. However, the problem is that the hospital run by the mission only has one year-round doctor. This is an extremely concerning problem considering that the next closest hospital is an hour away by boat. To put this in perspective, there are more than forty hospitals within thirty miles of each other in Phoenix.

The majority of the doctors who come to the clinic are American doctors giving up their time for about a week out of each year to give health services to the Guatemalan people. These doctors include dentists, ocular specialists, orthopedists, radiologists, oncologists, pediatricians, general surgeons, and general practitioners. The most common procedures performed are hernias and cysts, which while not life-threatening, can be very painful when they can only be treated once a year, but many other types of surgeries are also performed here by visiting doctors.

A US surgical team performing surgery at San Lucas Parish Hospital.

While the San Lucas Mission hospital does everything it can to help out the people, it is not an ideal situation. The hospital is grossly undermanned and fairly under-equipped. Almost all of the patients are out-patients because the hospital does not have the resources to keep people for any extended period of time. As we toured the hospital we saw a line of about fifteen people waiting to meet with the doctor or to pick up their prescriptions.

Visiting this medical clinic was both very alarming and very inspiring for me. I was startled that a town of fairly good size could have such little access to healthcare. This was really the first time it dawned on me that to some people getting ill isn’t just missing a few days of school or a weekend with friends.

The Operating Room at San Lucas Parish Hospital.

If I were ever to get injured or sick I would be taken care of no matter what the cost. For indigenous Guatemalans with no healthcare, getting sick or injured means waiting months to see a doctor and missing work which means not being able to buy food and support their families. The hospital at Mission San Lucas scared me because it showed me how much I take health care for granted when it is actually so rare in other countries.

As much as I became aware of the lack of healthcare, I also was amazed by the spirit of the members of the San Lucas Mission.

With no money other than donations from Americans and some Europeans, and usually insufficient medical equipment, the San Lucas Mission hospital still manages to treat about 7,000 people a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The passion the people at the mission showed for giving healthcare to as many people as they could prompted Mr. Broyles and I to begin talking about a Brophy trip. A trip where students with parents who are medical professionals would travel to the mission and give their services to the people.

 

 

 

Waiting in line to see the doctor.

This is an idea I am really excited about because I know that it is something my dad and I would definitely love to do. The hospital at San Lucas Mission really inspired me because it was an example of people making the best out of a pretty bad situation.

Charlie Miller

 

4 Responses to Health Care: A Human Right, by Charlie Miller

  1. Fred Oaxaca says:

    Charlie, it is pretty inspiring to read your blog, it is amazing to see you already figuring out things that will make a great difference in people’s lives! You have a great analysis on the state healthcare as a whole since situations like that of the Guatamalans are more prevalent than that of our own. I hope that you keep that drive and compassion throughout your immersion but also as you step back on American soil where the work begins!
    Pongan Rosas
    Fred

  2. DeeDee Staab says:

    Charlie, I really enjoyed reading your blog. You are lucky to be having such a life changing experience. It would be awesome to get medical people from the Brophy community to help out in Guatemala.
    take care and love you
    DeeDee

  3. Jeff Bennett says:

    Charlie

    Glad to hear you are experiencing an issue like this first hand. it is oh so important. Just make sure you run with this and strive to fix it when you come back home!!! Cant wait to hear stories when your get back!

    Pongan Rosas

    Jeff Bennett

  4. Matt Williams says:

    Charlie,

    It sounds like you had an enlightening and inspiring experience in Guatemala. It sounds like the trip had a big impact on you. I can’t wait to hear about Guatemala in person.

    We are leaving for Iguazu today. I can’t wait to see the waterfall!

    I hope you are enjoying your well-deserved break.

    -Matt Williams

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