Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ryanne Journal 1

There’s no better way to shatter one’s complacency than by coming to Roatán, Honduras. It would be negligent of me to discuss my experience in the clinic without providing a background for why Global Healing’s services are needed on the island. Here, the lack—and misappropriation—of resources manifests itself in the form of a decrepit infrastructure, where problems in healthcare, education, and transportation abound. From a public hospital with no running water to shanties made of corrugated metal, the island is certainly underdeveloped.

Underdeveloped, but more importantly, developing. The potential for growth on Roatán is astounding. Savvy entrepreneurs have already wised up to this fact, and cruise lines and realtors are expanding their networks to include this tiny Caribbean island. Whether the motivation is expansion or exploitation, the end result is growth. The central problem, however, is that Roatan’s development is designed to serve tourists, and not necessarily islanders.
It is easy for a tourist to go straight from the airport to one of the many resorts on the island, thereby missing the communities that go without running water, the children that play in the dirt without shoes, and the thirteen year old girls with babies. I did not intend to talk about the sociopolitical issues on Roatán more than the medical ones, but I find it difficult for me to splice these elements into separate categories, as they are all so intertwined and all so crucial to the betterment of Roatán.

A self-sustaining method for improvement—one that equips Roatán’s people to serve the island’s needs—is necessary. People like Peggy help Roatán’s poor by working independent of the system, but the island needs an inherent system that does the job on its own. Right now, the Ministry of Health in Tegucigalpa reimburses 95% of Roatán’s medical expenses. Under ZOLITUR (Free Tourist Zone for the Bay Islands—a law that goes into effect within ten years), funds for healthcare will depend on how the budget for all social services is allotted. An Education Commission for the island was recently created. Likewise, a Healthcare Commission is needed to insure that a fair allotment of funds for medical services on the island.
But, I digress. My experience in clinic has been amazing, and I am already planning to return to the island for more intensive training during and after medical school. In the first week, I have regularly seen cases that would only occasionally appear in the United States. Malaria, scabies, and intestinal parasites no longer seem exotic. Just in the last four days, three children tested positive for falciparum – the most dangerous strain of malaria. I have been told that this many cases would have been rare five years ago. Next week I’ll talk more about the clinic and what I have been doing outside of clinic time.