Stories From the Field:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Mobile Clinic Healthcare Delivery in the Dominican Republic

Tina Tam, Giuliana de Marchi, Jennifer Surabian, Katherine Waters and Christine Shaughnessy, all Registered Nurses working in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Mass General, were granted Center for Global Health Travel Awards to staff mobile clinics in the Dominican Republic.

No words can begin to describe what an eye-opening, inspiring, and life-changing experience this trip was for us. After going on multiple service trips with Good Samaritan Mission Council to La Romana, Dominican Republic, Christine Shaughnessy, RN, was leading the group for her first time.

For the rest of us, prior to this trip, we only knew we were going to provide healthcare in poverty-stricken villages. We were unaware of how few possessions the sugar cane workers and their families owned and the conditions in which they were living until we arrived and began working in the mobile clinics in the bateyes (the local name for their villages). The workers and their families emigrated from Haiti to harvest sugar cane and have received very little support from their employers and the Dominican government.

Our group consisted of 18 members from Massachusetts and Maine. Each day, we were split into two groups; one group set up medical clinics and the other continued construction work at the Good Samaritan General Hospital, a hospital that was built from the ground up by volunteers. The medical group set up clinics at a different bateye each day. Each bateye receives a mobile clinic visit from volunteer groups approximately one or two times a year. Without these visits, the Haitian workers would go without any healthcare entirely because they must pay privately or have insurance, something which all of them lack.

Due to very limited supplies and resources, we witnessed and experienced many difficult situations in the mobile clinics. We saw immobile patients in homemade wheelchairs, and blind elderly patients using old splintered wooden pieces as canes.  These are things we had never seen while working at Mass General. Being in the bateyes and working with the people made us appreciate all the ‘ordinary things’ in our daily lives such as clean drinking water, warm showers, shoes, and so much more.

With the funds we raised, we provided medical and dental care to over 600 patients, distributed food, clothes, and toys, made considerable changes to the construction on the third floor of the Good Samaritan Public Hospital, sponsored an after-school program for one month, sponsored two college students each for one semester of university studies, donated to the Niños de Cristo Orphanage, and made lifelong friends.