By Carlos Frum
PDG District 6440 and member of the Northbrook, IL, Rotary Club
The line went around the block and people still were coming! It was 2003, and my first trip to Guatemala as a translator for a medical team. Upon my return, I realized that we have no idea in the United States how difficult it is for people in poor countries to get basic health care.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to simple X-rays.
After several more trips, I resolved, with two other past governors from Rotary District 6440, to do something about this. Bruce Baumberger, Pam Kerr, and I started a project to install 29 digital X-ray systems in remote clinics in Guatemala. We called the project HealthRays™.”
Guatemala’s Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) signed a memorandum of cooperation with us, and we formed a committee in 2011.
The problem in Guatemala is not the lack of equipment, but the absence of trained radiologists to serve these clinics. The answer is to send the X-rays via the internet to physicians located far from the remote clinics, who then can read and interpret the images. Years ago, the memorandum assisted in the development of a simple digital X-ray system that can be operated by high school graduates with only two weeks of training.
What attracted me most about this project was that although it was difficult, it had the potential to help millions. And, we are making headway. We have funding for nine units, operational teams in the U.S> and Guatemala, and a list of supporters that continues to grow.
We started with a pilot installation instigated by a Rotary member with experience in radiology. Parts came from two suppliers, and the unit was installed by a third. It took us four years to complete, but we learned a lot.
Currently our system, with software, installation, spare parts, and warranty, comes from a single source and the manuals are in Spanish. The PAHO trains operators and, with local Rotary members, ensures the clinics are upgraded to the appropriate standards by the public health ministry.
We have participation from 14 districts in Guatemala, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the U.S., so the future looks bright! We still are looking for partners. Visit our website, and contact us if you would like to help.