The Salud y Paz Surgical Missions Program started in 2003 as a response to the tremendous need for low-cost tertiary care in the Southwest Highlands of Guatemala. In the years since the initiation of the program, we have been able to increase access to general and specialty surgical services, preventing long periods of time waiting for surgery and increasing quality of life for the patient and their family unit. Our surgery program now serves patients from the northern regions Guatemala to the Mexican border. We are able to offer two fully functional operating rooms and a procedure room which include anesthesia machines, cautery, a vacuum ventilation system and uninterruptable power supply. In addition; we have general instrumentation, autoclaves, backup generator, and laboratory services available. We host a biomedical engineer onsite during surgery week, allowing us to ensure appropriate maintenance and prompt repairs on all machinery and instrumentation, making the most of limited time in country. Patients needing overnight care are attended to by volunteer team members. Families are able to stay overnight for free in the community center close to the clinic.
Volunteer surgical mission teams are asked to provide all of the necessary supplies and medications to complete their surgical mission. The Surgical Mission Coordinator works with volunteer team members to purchase necessary supplies in country which cannot be imported through customs. In addition, we offer trained ancillary personnel who receive ongoing education and sustenance as a result of your collaboration. If the team so chooses, they are able to work alongside rural Guatemalans, empowering them to serve their own people. Such personnel include but are not limited to, environmental services, laboratory technicians, sterilization technicians, reception, security, pastoral care and patient education specialists. The Surgical Mission Coordinator also works to advertise the surgical mission and ensure sufficient numbers of patients. Coordination takes place amongst numerous for-profit and non-profit organizations throughout the country. Through its network of providers, Salud y Paz is also able to obtain specialty consults, diagnostics, pathology and laboratory tests not yet offered at our long-standing clinics. Generally speaking, patients are evaluated by one of the Salud y Paz volunteer or staff providers prior to their surgical evaluation. As part of the Salud y Paz surgical mission, patients are empowered to seek appropriate follow-up care at one of our long-standing clinics.
In recent years, we have hosted a variety of volunteer surgical mission teams including general, gynecological, ophthalmological, ENT, plastics and maxillofacial surgical specialties who have operated on patients of all ages. Recently, a volunteer anesthesiologist stated; “Of all my 20 years of missions experience in developing countries around the world, Salud y Paz has the best organized program. I would return without hesitation to serve again.” [Dr. Kim Young, 2012] We have received feedback from previous team members that our surgical program is one of the lowest cost options in Guatemala for teams. Teams have added that because our clinic is in such a rural area, the need is more evident. Surgeons that visit us come primarily to help the people of rural Guatemala but also have said that their skill set increases during their time of service as a result of working in this environment. The different set of resources here and the advanced pathology really challenges them to think out of the box and makes them a better surgeon.
Patients have provided the following feedback;
“Thanks to the doctors, my life will be normal. I am thankful for the attention they gave me and the patience they had with me.“ [Pedro, age 59, after hernia surgery]
“Although I was nervous at first, I am very happy now. The clinic treated us very well; they provided everything for us including food and a place to stay. I was worried about taking care of myself at home after the surgery but the nurses took the time to make sure I understood, answered my questions, and calmed my doubts. Many thanks to the doctors and nurses who helped me with my illness. We received better attention here than in a private hospital. You see, we are scared to go to the public hospital because many people die there and we can’t go to a private hospital because we are poor. I will pray that this project continues so you can help others like me.” [Petrona, age 59, after gynecology surgery]
For teams wishing to serve in Guatemala we offer a volunteer package and arrangement of all in country logistics; including transportation, translation and hotel arrangements. Surgery teams pay additional monies depending on resources used and medications ordered. All other charges are based on usage. Surgery teams interested in volunteering with Project Salud y Paz should contact the Surgical Mission Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.