1,900 treated in Cotabambas, Peru

What can a team of 20 volunteers, all doctors or nurses, accomplish in five days with 10 Physician Travel Packs provided by HPIC?

“Over 1,900 patients were triaged,” reported Dr. Duncan Miller in his report to HPIC. “Of these, 1,608 were assessed in the general medicine clinic; 506 were seen by a dentist and 767 patients were treated in optometry. All of these patients were prescribed medication and/or vitamins.”

Dr. Miller’s team was assembled by the Ascenta Foundation from St. Paul’s and B.C. Children’s Hospitals in British Columbia and Hinton Hospital in Alberta. They provided care to the mainly indigenous community of Cotabambas in the Andes mountains in Peru.

“The overall sentiment was one of absolute gratitude. The local community expressed their thanks with their words, but also with their smiles, hugs, tears, and often, with a courteous tip of the hat,” Dr. Miller reported. “They hosted a beautiful closing ceremony for the whole team, attended by government officials from all over the region. Children from the local elementary school performed traditional Quechuan poems and dances originating from the 16th century.”

Most patients complained of parasites and body pain. “The greatest need was for vitamins to assist with malnutrition. Domestic abuse was widespread and the need for psychotropic medication was high. Patients also presented a great need for dental care,” wrote Dr. Miller.

There is a small hospital in the town but it doesn’t always have the medication required. That means that a patient would have to make a treacherous four-hour journey on a winding mountain road to the bigger centre of Cuzco.

“Some of our first patients were a mother and her three children,” Dr. Miller recalled. “All three kids were under 10 years old and had spent the afternoon in the dental clinic. I believe this may have been their first visit to a dentist. I had seen this family earlier and the eldest of the three boys was quite scared. He was crying, which had upset his siblings.

“When the family arrived at the pharmacy to collect their pain medications, antibiotics and vitamins, I gave each of the kids an Izzy Doll (knitted by volunteers across Canada and included in all PTPs). The children were mesmerized, they stopped crying and embraced their new toys. Their mother was so touched, her arms full of medications, her children happy and healthy, she became overwhelmed by tears of gratitude and hugged me.”