The International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program, a partnership between Atrium Health and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, and Chiquita Brands celebrated one year of successful collaboration to promote sustainable, quality healthcare and education in underserved communities with the installation of a mobile cardiac catheterization laboratory (cath lab) at La Lima Medical Center in Honduras.

La Lima Cath Lab

Barbara Hallow Bissell, who helped fund the purchase of the cath lab, cuts a ribbon with Dr. Astor Amaya, Mayor of La Lima. They are joined by (left to right) Francis Robicsek, MD, vice president of the System’s International Medical Outreach Program, Ed Lonergan, president and CEO of Chiquita Brands, and Paul Franz, executive vice president of Atrium Health

Over the past year, these Charlotte-based organizations have collaborated to distribute medical and computer supplies to hospitals, clinics and public schools throughout Central America. To date, they have together provided nine hospitals and rural clinics with much-needed medical equipment and supplies and delivered 7,500 computers to 500 public schools.

“We are grateful to the donors and the partner organizations that have made it possible for our hospital to become one of the nation’s best equipped to offer life-saving cardiology services,” said Dr. Emilio Castro, director of La Lima Medical Center. “We will be able to offer these services at low cost to patients, many of whom  travel to La Lima from neighboring cities that lack this type of specialized care.”

The cath lab was donated by the IMO Program with funding from the Bissell Family Foundation and transported overland in the United States by Euromex of Georgia, Inc., and carried by a Chiquita vessel to Honduras. The lab is a large, mobile unit used to diagnose and perform life-saving procedures on patients experiencing heart attack, chest pain or other symptoms of heart disease. The lab will be used to treat patients in surrounding rural areas, including many regional Chiquita employees, and will also be made available for indigent care.

La Lima Cath Lab

Dr. Francis Robicsek, vice president of the System’s International Medical Outreach (IMO) Program, accepts a plaque recognizing the IMO Program from Guillermo Bueso, President of Banco Atlántida S.A.

The partnership between the IMO Program and Chiquita was also instrumental to furnishing the first comprehensive intensive care units (ICUs) in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, in July 2013. The adult and pediatric ICUs are located in one of the country’s largest public hospitals, Hospital Nacional de Occidente San Juan de Dios. In December 2013, medical equipment was also provided to a new clinic at Chiquita’s Gavilán Farm at Sarapiquí, Costa Rica, improving healthcare of 2,800 workers and their families.

“Improving lives is embedded within Chiquita’s purpose, and our employees take great pride in this partnership to improve access to quality healthcare,” said Ed Lonergan, president and chief executive officer for Chiquita. “This collaboration is a tremendous example of global community building thanks to the unique and complementary capabilities of Charlotte organizations. Together, we are helping fulfill critical healthcare needs in a way that smartly leverages and multiplies our individual resources to provide benefits to underserved communities across Central America. We join in celebrating this milestone and look forward to helping many more communities in the years ahead through our joint creativity and commitment.”

La Lima Cath Lab Opening

At the opening (from left to right): Fernando Paiz, executive on the Heineman Foundation Board; Theresa Johnson, director of the IMO Program; Dan Wheeler, president of Transtate Equipment Co.; Paul Franz, executive vice president of Atrium Health; Dr. Francis Robicsek, vice president of the IMO Program; Barbara Hallow Bissell, from the Bissell Family Foundation; Dr. Emilio Castro, director of La Lima Medical Center; Dr. Astor Amaya, Mayor of La Lima; and Ed Lonergan, president and CEO of Chiquita Brands.

Chiquita employs more than 16,000 people in Central America. Access to quality healthcare is an important part of Chiquita’s purpose to improve lives through its operations. For most of the early 1990s, the company operated hospitals directly, serving more than 250,000 patients per year. Today, Chiquita continues this tradition of building communities through the operation of more than 24 medical clinics and dispensaries on its owned farms across Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. The La Lima Medical Center, which was originally built by Chiquita in 1951 and acquired in 2003 by Hospital La Lima S.A., a subsidiary of Hospitales Honduras, continues to serve 120,000 patients each year, including 9,000 Chiquita employees and their families.

The IMO Program has a long history of assembling, refurbishing and donating equipment and supplies worldwide, establishing sustainable cardiology programs, intensive care units and more. It has helped a large number of patients in 28 countries and has donated and installed seven cath labs in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. Medical teams from Atrium Health frequently travel to these countries to train and support teams abroad in using the equipment and in performing specialized procedures on patients.

“Through these shipments, we are able to provide better accessibility to modern healthcare and educational opportunities to thousands of children and families in these cities,” said Dr. Francis Robicsek, vice president of Atrium Health and president of the Heineman Foundation. “By collaborating with partners like Chiquita, we are able to allocate more funds to our mission to develop sustainable quality healthcare across the globe.”

The event was attended by Ed Lonergan, president and chief executive officer of Chiquita; Manuel Rodriguez, Chiquita’s corporate responsibility officer; Dr. Francis Robicsek, vice president of the IMO Program; Paul Franz, executive vice president at Atrium Health; Fernando Paiz, Heineman Foundation; Dr. Astor Amaya, Mayor of La Lima; Guillermo Bueso, President of Banco Atlántida S.A.; Arturo Medrano, President of the Board of La Lima Medical Center, among others.