El Salvador is not a friendly place.
Gunshot wounds, in some parts of the Central American country, are as commonplace as skinned knees on Canadian playgrounds.
Nestled between Honduras and Guatemala, upward of 40 per cent of the country’s people have no access to medical care whatsoever; others in the impoverished nation live long distances from the nearest hospital.
Jerome Harvey, who heads the local chapter of Medical Equipment Modernization Opportunity, said when he asked what a patient does when they’re diagnosed with cancer, the answer was shocking.
“You just die,” was the response.
On Thursday the charitable organization took a step toward alleviating the problem, loading a second-hand ambulance donated by Superior-North EMS and outfitted with equipment from around the country into a cargo container for delivery to the Shalom Clinic in rural El Salvador.
The shipment included x-ray equipment and bikes, donated by Bikes for Humanity.
Harvey said the need is great and as Christians, it’s the right thing to do.
“Basically our purpose is to show people in El Salvador God’s love,” Harvey said. “Maybe then they’ll stop shooting each other.”
Getting the ambulance retrofitted and ready for its new life in Central America took volunteers dozens of hours, not to mention their American volunteer partners in El Salvador itself.
Harvey said he’s hoping their efforts, which also includes the training of paramedic personnel to operated the ambulance and respond to the calls, will help fill some of the treatment gap the country faces.
“That’s basically our motivation and why we’re doing it,” he said.
Paramedic Stephen Wiebe will provide some of the training and said the donated ambulance will be a godsend.
“Any ambulances that they do have in the country have first responders working on them that have varying levels of training. There’s not any real national standardization of any kind,” Wiebe said. “The ambulances are ill-equipped. Most of them are smaller, minivan-sized ambulances and many regions of the country have no ambulances whatsoever.”
MEMO’s roots originated in 2005 in Thunder Bay, when the city’s former hospitals were closing and the equipment was set to be sold for scrap. Instead they salvaged what they could and sent X-ray equipment to Cuba.
In the ensuing years they’ve shipped more than 50 cargo containers to Cuba and El Salvador, totalling millions in equipment.
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