Honduras

With Few Options for Care, Families in Honduras Journey to Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital

For many families in Honduras, a child's health needs can mean financial catastrophe. One hospital in San Pedro Sula is working to change that.

A family from Colon, Honduras traveled for eight hours by bus to arrive at the Ruth Paz hospital in San Pedro Sula, to have their five-ear-old daughter examined for heart issues. The family is one of many who travel great distances to be seen by the staff at Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital.(Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
A family from Colon, Honduras traveled for eight hours by bus to arrive at the Ruth Paz hospital in San Pedro Sula, to have their five-ear-old daughter examined for heart issues. The family is one of many who travel great distances to be seen by the staff at Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital.(Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

By the time many patients reach the front doors of Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital, they’ve traveled for hours, sometimes days.

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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.

Early morning queue of people waiting outside the Ruth Paz hospital in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
Early each morning, patients wait to be seen. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

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.

A young patient and her mother in one of Ruth Paz's waiting rooms. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
A young patient and her mother in one of Ruth Paz’s waiting rooms. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

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.”

Inside a surgery room during an operation on children at the Ruth Paz hospital in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
Medical staff in on of Ruth Paz’s operating rooms.  (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

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.

A boy and her mother look at the results of an ultrasound before his operation the following day at the Ruth Paz hospital in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
A patient and his mother look at the results of an ultrasound before his operation the following day. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

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.

Doctor Madrid visit a child while his father attends, at the ruth Paz clinic in San Pedro Sula, where various services are provided:various services: general medicine, dentistry, and orthodontics. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
A young patient is seen at Ruth Paz Foundation’s clinic, where general medicine, dental care and other services are provided. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

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.

The hospital provides free medication to patients, and Direct Relief has been able to supply the facility with charitable medicines. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)
The hospital provides free medication to patients, and Direct Relief has been able to supply the facility with charitable medicines. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

Since 2013, Direct Relief has provided the Ruth Paz Hospital with over $21 million in medicines and medical supplies.

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