By the time many patients reach the front doors of Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital, they’ve traveled for hours, sometimes days.
The hospital, located in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is one of the only facilities in the country offering high-quality specialty care for children. Most services are offered for free or greatly reduced in cost, according to need. The hospital first opened as a burn center for children, but later opened to everyone.
From Monday to Friday, the foundation’s clinics are full of people waiting to be evaluated, mostly children but also adults.
The hospital cares for children suffering from first- and second-degree burns. Patients with third-degree burns are sent by air ambulance to hospitals in the United States, and the Ruth Paz Foundation pays the costs for that patient and a family member. The hospital has been able to send 737 people to U.S. for care since 2003, and the facility provides patients with free medications.
That’s important for many in Honduras, where a physical injury or debilitating disease not only affects the body, but can have catastrophic financial impacts on the entire family.
“The need for medical attention is so great that people do everything possible to reach our medical facilities,” said Amanda Restrepo, spokesperson for Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital. “This medical care cannot be found in public hospitals.”
In the case of 19-year-old Franklin Lopez, these challenges were met, when he was admitted to Ruth Paz hospital last October.
Lopez broke his femur in a motorcycle accident, and spent 21 days languishing without proper care. That’s when his mother made the decision to bring him to Ruth Paz.
An accident like that isn’t only physically traumatic for patients like Lopez, but it can have major financial impacts as well.
Two days after his surgery, Lopez was discharged from the hospital. With his physical health managed, his family was faced with a new dilemma: how to return home which is about 60 miles from the hospital.
Taking a bus would be too painful to navigate with a newly-mended femur. The cost of a private car, $160, was too much for the family to consider. They ultimately made it home by sharing a car with another patient’s family who left the hospital around the same time.
About a third of patients seen at Ruth Paz are from outside of San Pedro Sula, where the Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital and Clinic are located. Since the hospital opened, more than 270,000 people have received care.
Just finding the money to get to the hospital is a perennial challenge for families seeking care for their children.
If a patient is coming from further away, they’ll “often have to take two or three buses and a taxi to get to our facilities,” Restrepo said.
If a patient has a broken bone, heart problem or scoliosis, they may have to hire a private car, which will be costly. Patients from islands like Roatan, must take a ferry first to the city of La Ceiba, then a direct bus to San Pedro Sula, and then a taxi to our facilities,” Restrepo said.
The foundation is able to cover the travel costs of some patients, based on need.
“We serve patients from all regions, including the Bay Island regions of the country,” Restrepo said.
Since 2013, Direct Relief has provided the Ruth Paz Hospital with over $21 million in medicines and medical supplies.