In 2011, the International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program was presented with an urgent request by Dr. Giovanni Ortega Medez, Director of the Hospital de San Juan de Dios (also known as Hospital Nacional de Occidente) in Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala, to provide the hospital with a 6-bed Adult and 6-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Agreeing to assist with this great need, the Program began to outline a plan to provide a fully equipped, up-to-date Adult ICU. It also sent experts from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Carolinas Medical Center to advise as how to recognize their Emergency Department – a place with a lot of patients but very limited resources.

In 2013, the opening of the first set of comprehensive ICUs at the Hospital Nacional de Occidente in Quetzaltenango was celebrated. The IMO Program, with support from Chiquita Brands and Harris Teeter (which provided free land and sea transportation of medical equipment from Charlotte, NC, to Quetzaltenango), donated more than 14,000 pounds of equipment (worth over $1.2 million if purchased new), including bassinets, ventilators, patient monitors, stretchers and patient beds.

“We are most grateful for this donation as it will improve how we operate our adult and pediatric intensive care units, which reach capacity every day,” said Ligia Cruz Avila, MD, Deputy Director of Hospital Nacional de Occidente. “The equipment provides a new set of resources that will allow us to enhance the services we offer our patients, in particular those with limited means.”

Prior to this equipment donation, the rural hospital had only a minimally-equipped neonatal and pediatric ICU, lacking an established adult ICU.

“It is a privilege for us to be part of a project of such magnitude and to provide necessary medical resources to communities that need it the most,” said Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD, Vice President of IMO. “Our ongoing involvement with medical assistance projects in Central America has allowed us to help assure free access to basic care services that would not be available otherwise. We look forward to continue to assist such communities in their efforts to provide quality healthcare in Guatemala.”