Medical care, along with education, was one of the first needs expressed by the people when the Mission began its socio-economic programming more than 45 years ago. No health care facilities existed in San Lucas when the Mission began its work and, in 1964, with the support of the Sisters of Notre Dame a small clinic was built adjacent to the Mission to meet the people's health needs.
Reflecting the overall situation of poverty within indigenous communities in Guatemala, the health problems in San Lucas and surrounding communities are largely the result of inadequate access to housing, food, and potable water. More than one in every 25 infants dies before their first birthday. Malnutrition affects about a quarter of all children and infections, including diarrhea and pneumonia cause widespread suffering and preventable death.
The goal of the Mission Clinic is to couple broader community development initiatives with health strategies that will ensure that the best preventive and treatment interventions are provided to all those in need. Working in conjunction with other programs addressing land, housing and education needs, the clinic heads up efforts to provide healthcare.
In 1994, the new Clinic was built as a result of collaboration from nearly 300 volunteer workers from the area and from the US. The 32-bed facility serves as the primary source of direct health care services for San Lucas and surrounding communities. It is focused on providing high quality outpatient services and emergency care for urgent health problems. Approximately 50-100 patients a day are treated at the Clinic. The only health facility open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, the Clinic serves a large role in providing access to healthcare.
Dr. Rafael Tun, the supervising physician, is native to San Lucas and has been working with the Clinic for almost ten years. As the resident doctor, Dr. Tun and one registered nurse, along with ten nurses’ aides, oversee the 32-bed facility (10 for children, 10 for women, 8 for men, 1 for isolation, and 3 for post-delivery), including a pharmacy, emergency room, delivery room, x-ray facility, eye clinic, dental clinic, , and three wards (women's, men's, and children's wards).
In 2007 the Clinic provided care for more than 8,500 patients. The care received by patients visiting the Clinic is delivered at an ‘ability to pay’ basis, with many receiving care at no cost. As the population of San Lucas and the surrounding communities increase, so does the growing need of the people for affordable access to healthcare. Below is a lay-out of the direct health services provided by the Clinic for 2007:
In-patient – 683
Out-patient – 2,967
Emergency Care – 2,479
Births – 229
Ultrasound – 406
Dental Clinic – 1,411
Eye Clinic - 144
X-Ray Facility– 236
Cases which require surgery, specialty care or acute urgency care are referred to the National Hospital in the department (state) capital, Solola, 45 minutes away in the Clinic’s ambulance.
Children requiring intravenous and intensive antibiotic therapy are commonly hospitalized in the clinic, as are adults with a variety of chronic disorders. Complicated births are delivered at the clinic as well, and emergency patients are brought to the clinic for immediate treatment at all hours and can either be admitted to the clinic or transferred to the National Hospital for major surgery or complex interventions.
Other services offered by the Mission Clinic include ambulance service, diabetes clinic, laboratory, health promoter and mid-wife in-service formation, and mobil-clinics in surrounding communities through the rural healthcare program.
In 1991, the Mission Clinic expanded its services to provide for patients suffering from vision loss and damage. As vision loss severely impairs an individual’s ability to perform basic daily activities, the objective of the effort was to help patients become functional. Read more here.
Dental care is an integral aspect of what the Clinic attempts in providing holistic care. Dr. Mike Winters, from the diocese of New Ulm, MN was especially instrumental in developing the dental facility in the clinic, furnishing it with state-of-the-art equipment and training for dental assistants. Read more here.