Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The International Medical Outreach Program, a collaborative partnership between Heineman Medical Outreach, Inc. and Carolinas HealthCare System, reaches back as far as the 1970s, when we were instrumental in the establishment of UNICAR, the Guatemalan Heart Institute – the only such facility in Central America, and one of two sites (the other is Costal Rica) where heart surgery is done on a systematic basis. We have installed seven heart catheterization laboratories, built a nationwide echocardiographic diagnostic network, installed critical care units, started kidney dialysis programs, and delivered thousands of pieces of used, refurbished and new medical equipment to different countries in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa. We are now regularly sending support medical groups to Belize and to Antigua, West Indies from Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.
The lion’s share of the work still remains in Central America, where the majority live below poverty levels. For instance, of the 14 million people in Guatemala, where we are most active, 56 percent of the population lives below the level of poverty, with a daily income of $1.60 or less. This fact is well reflected in the country’s general healthcare, which is highly inadequate.
One of the most significant shortcomings is the need for facilities to treat critically ill infants and children. In most hospitals, designated areas for neonatal and pediatric care is primitive or nonexistent. Accordingly, the infant and child mortality rate is extremely high – seven times that of the United States. Many of these fatalities could be prevented if proper equipment were accessible.
Accordingly, we have chosen to remedy this situation by installing up-to-date neonatal and pediatric intensive care units in Central America, beginning in Guatemala. We are confident that this task can be done with a relatively modest investment and by organizing local resources. We are in a position to equip these units with used and refurbished equipment obtained from the deaccessioned medical equipment from the 900 care facilities of Carolinas HealthCare System, and fill in the gap with new or refurbished equipment obtained elsewhere. We could also train the Guatemalan personnel at Carolinas Medical Center. We have the ability to deliver about tenfold value on every dollar spent. We base this upon our pilot project at the Regional Hospital in Cobán, Guatemala where we installed an up-todate neonatal pediatric intensive care unit. About four months after the installation, we received a report from the director of the hospital that the soaring infant mortality rate was already cut in half.
Our work in the year of 2015 bears special importance to us. Besides the results obtained, it also provides new directions, new challenges, new potential partners, and new ways to leverage our resources.
Francis Robicsek, MD, PhD
VICE PRESIDENT | International Medical Outreach
PRESIDENT | Heineman Foundation of Charlotte
Theresa R. Johnson
DIRECTOR | International Medical Outreach