This is a holiday weekend in the Dominican Republic. Three Kings’ Day is when children in Latin America traditionally receive gifts. Casa Pastoral is affiliated with a Baptist church around the corner. The staff members who cook the meals and organize the logistics for the mission teams come from the church membership.
Sunday we met yet another group on a medical mission, this one from Saco, Maine. Tomorrow we expect a small group of nurses from Rhode Island to fill any remaining bunk beds in the dorm. With the undergraduate students from Connecticut also staying here, it feels like all of New England has escaped the winter for the Caribbean.
In the morning, we divided into two groups. Some stayed at Casa Pastoral to continue preparing bins of medications for distribution. The three surgeons and I joined the Quinnipiac group on a tour of the Buen Samaritano Hospital, another major recipient of missionary labor.
We heard that the public hospital is so overrun that guards stand at the emergency room doors to keep patients from storming in. By contrast, Buen Samaritano has wide, clean hallways, modern donated equipment, private rooms with flat screen televisions, and a cafeteria.
The surgical team returned to the hospital after lunch with Pedro, one of the nursing students. Thirty-four patients who had been recommended for surgery waited for them as they set up three consult rooms on the second floor of the hospital. With the efficient help of translators and hospital staff, the doctors evaluated all the patients and scheduled the ones who qualified for operations on Monday through Thursday.
The cases will include hernia repairs, gall bladder removals, and hysterectomies. The schedule of five or six operations a day is ambitious. Each day two of the nursing students will rotate in the hospital to care for patients before and after surgery.
The remaining team members visited a public beach on their last afternoon before the clinical work begins. They are already realizing that their plans for scholarly projects will have to change to accommodate shifting conditions. In the same way that the surgical team will have to adjust to a different hospital setting, the nurses who visit the bateyes will learn to provide patient-centered care without the full array of resources they are used to in the United States.