The new government implemented a program in El Salvador called Eco Familiar, which is essentially theidea of bringing preventative medicine to remote areas to keep disease from reaching emergency state, at which point overcrowded, underfunded hospitals are usually the only option. It´s simple, it´s genius, and it´s working.
Except in Guajoyo, where the doctor assigned to our EcoFamiliar no sirve — he doesn´t work. It began with complaints that he wasn´t respecting his schedule and would show up or leave whenever he wanted. Then the complaints about disrespect or refusal to see patients started to surface. Now, 9 months later, this doctor faces a community of enraged peasant families who tomorrow morning at 7:30 will take the clinic and refuse to let him enter.
When the situation first began to prove problematic, the community council called a meeting with the doctor and his boss to let them know what the complaints were so he could improve. When he didn´t improve, we talked to his boss´s boss, whose response was to instal a log-in book in the home of one of the community leaders for the doctor to sign every day when he arrived and when he left the community, for accountability of his working hours. The doctor signed the book, but habitually falsified the hour. He would show up at 11:30am and leave at 1, but according to the book he was there from 7:28 to 3:32. The boss´s boss reverted to the beaurocratic process in order to not deal with this uncomfortable situation.
But meanwhile people in Guajoyo and the neighboring communities were getting sick, and most refused to go to the clinic because of the behavior of the doctor. Some patients were given incorrect medicine. Some patients came to the clinic at the crack of dawn to wait to be attended, only to be denied service and badmouthed by the man whothey came to see. There was one woman last week who gave birth in the hospital and when she came back home, realized the hospital had left something inside her, and she was at risk of infection and tons of other complications. The doctor refused to go visit her, saying bruskly to the nurse who informed him of the situation “You´re not my boss to be telling me where to go”.
The stories are countless of his mistreatment of the people, but the important part is that this community, an organized community, won´t stand for this kind o f mistreatment. Which is why tomorrow morning I will proudly be standing by my friends blocking the entrance to the EcoFamiliar to demand dignified treatment. Just because this community is poor does not deny them the right to be treated with dignity, and that is a lesson that we should all learn — that we should never stand for anyone for whatever reason to be denied dignity.
Photos to come soon, and an update on how the strike went!