This is a personal “From The Field story from Direct Relief Employee, Genevieve Bitter.
I am so impressed with the health system implemented in this tiny country. There are 39 health centers which offer basic primary care services; these centers are regional and are no more than three miles apart. There are five district hospitals in addition to Milton Cato Hospital, which is the largest and acts as the referral facility. The Ministry of Health is in the process of opening three polyclinics to ease the pressure on the emergency room and trauma center at Milton Cato (visibly labeled as “Fresh Wounds”).
Milton Cato Hospital offers a wide range of services including surgeries, lab tests, radiology, dental, ophthalmology, maternity, and geriatrics. It is equipped with three operating theaters, but it is by no means a state-of-the-art facility. These are the tropics, so things are rusty and dilapidated but the services the hospital provides are consistent. The fact that there is always a radiologist available impressed me when so many facilities only offer part-time access to such services.
Another unique component of the hospital is its commitment to and treatment of asthma patients, which is how Direct Relief first came to know the facility. The hospital holds an asthma clinic once a week where the staff can see returning patients–mostly children–and adjust their medication if necessary. In the emergency area, there’s a bench with built-in nebulizer stations where patients can sit and receive treatment when having a respiratory attack.
Mr. Emmanuel Jones is a trained nurse and pharmacy technician who now manages the inventory system at the Central Stores. He showed me how he logs and distributes our product and pointed out our supplies in the hospital. From his nursing perspective, he knows how desperate they can become for hospital necessities, so he works very hard to get the goods out swiftly and accurately. Our donations not only go to Milton Cato, directly across the street from the main Central Store, but they are delivered to all of the hospitals and health centers as needed, so we are really helping to equip the entire country. Emmanuel also showed me in their log records that they were down to just five IV sets when our donation was received, boosting the stock to more than 2,000.
What I like best about Direct Relief’s relationship with St. Vincent and the Grenadines is that we are the primary source of medical donations for them, they know the quality of our goods on a personal level, and our donations have literally saved lives and also enabled them to use their budget for drugs for chronic conditions–diabetes and hypertension are widespread here. Allowing people to have piped water in their homes is a good thing but also took away daily exercise. The shift away from backyard farms to eating more convenient refined foods has clearly contributed as well.
From the clerks in the Medical Stores to the nurses to the Ministry level, all were deeply grateful for our relationship and are eager to continue. I am leaving here very proud of our work and have seen direct results of the quality donations we provide…and with a list of what they’d like to see in the future.