Bringing Innovative Healthcare to Ecuador’s Poor

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SEATTLE — People living in Ecuador’s remote regions and slums often lack access to surgical operations and basic care that could save their lives. Whether because of a lack of money for treatment or travel costs, or a fear of leaving family behind to journey to a hospital, people in remote regions and slums of Ecuador often forgo life-saving medical care.

However, several outstanding doctors and their medical staff are innovatively bringing sophisticated medical treatments and basic healthcare to Ecuador’s poor who cannot travel to towns or who simply cannot afford medical care.

Bringing Healthcare to Ecuador’s Poor a Dream Come True for Dr. Edgar Rodas

One example of such a doctor is a surgeon, Dr. Edgar Rodas, who received the Surgical Humanitarian Award in 2009 for his decades of medical missionary work helping the poor in Ecuador. Dr. Rodas has an impressive work history, including Minister of Health of Ecuador, Vice Director and Professor of Surgery of the University of Cuenca, President of the Ecuadorian Surgical Society and Founder Dean of the Medical University of Azuay. However, these positions do not include his dream job of becoming a medical missionary and bringing healthcare to the poorest people in Ecuador.

With Dr. Rodas’ hard work, innovative ways, determination, help from local medical staff and international donations, his dream came true in the early 1990s as he began working out of mobile surgical units in Ecuador. By 2014, Dr. Rodas’ mobile team had completed nearly 7,500 surgeries and 1,000 missions to remote locations and urban slums. Their work includes utilizing mobile surgical units on a truck and a boat and traveling throughout the country to provide low-cost or free surgeries and basic healthcare to Ecuador’s poor. This is made possible through donations of equipment and supplies, mostly from the U.S. and Europe.

Performing surgery on a truck or boat may sound dangerous. However, the Cinterandes team members have designed their vehicles and positioned their supplies so the operations run very efficiently; so much so that they say they would rather work in their comparatively small mobile units than in local clinics. Their surgical complication rates are the same as the rates in developed countries. The surgical teams of Cinterandes work with family and community members of the surgical patients to ensure proper pre- and post-surgery care, and designate local medical contacts and telemedicine when available.

Cinterandes Foundation Goes Beyond Surgery to Address Many Healthcare Needs

Although Dr. Rodas passed away in 2015, he was so effective in bringing high-quality healthcare to Ecuador’s poor that he has inspired many others to follow his lead. His nonprofit medical team, the Cinterandes Foundation, lives on as many other doctors continue the work Dr. Rodas started. The Cinterandes staff is comprised of several surgeons, including Dr. Rodas’ son, general physicians and other medical staff. Beyond medical treatments like surgeries, the Cinterandes Foundation provides healthcare to Ecuador’s poor through programs for clean water, nutrition, immunization and maternal health.

While Dr. Rodas’ team has reached thousands of Ecuador’s poorest people to offer surgical services and basic care, many people in remote areas have not ever had an opportunity to see a doctor. Fortunately, people interested in medicine are often in the profession because they truly care about people, and many continue to act as medical missionaries all over the world, including in Ecuador.

Without good health, people cannot focus on their education, economic situation, improving water and sanitation systems or getting out of poverty. Good health is part of the foundation necessary for improving oneself, caring for others, rising out of poverty and eventually giving others a helping hand.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Emme Guilbault

Emme writes for The Borgen Project from Michigan. Her academic interests include biology, medicine and writing. Emme is planning to write books sharing her experiences of journeying for 10 years around the United States, working with botanical medicine and vegan nutrition, caring for elderly and disabled folk, and rescuing and rehabilitating dogs.

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