Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Guatemala Mission medical clinics provide needed care to the poor

by Donna Connell, for the Inland Register

(From the November 15, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)

The Guatemala Mission’s medical clinics, like the one pictured in Nahualá, provide much-needed care to thousands of people in the Guatemala highlands. (IR photo courtesy of the Guatemala Commission)

Everyone who visits our diocesan mission in Guatemala very quickly begins to realize just how truly grateful are the native people for the care provided by four medical clinics. People crowd around the “Spokane Visitors” to express their gratitude for healthy children who have received their vaccinations, healthy babies delivered by trained midwives, prayerful support by health care professionals, and nutrition classes.

The Guatemala Commission recently received a financial report, from two Sisters of Charity of New York, Sisters Immaculata Burke and Marie Tolle, for the Health and Development programs of the Diocese of Spokane in the Diocese of Sololá, Guatemala, for the past fiscal year July 2011-June 2012. They also sent a resume of activities for the same period of time.

Sister Immaculata and Dr. José Miguel Vasquez train health promoters and direct the medical clinics in the villages of Ixtahuacán, Nahualá, New Ixtahuacán, and Novillero. They also provide health care at each of the clinics on a weekly rotation basis. The health promoters work in the clinics and travel into remote areas of the highlands of Sololá to aid people with health needs.

Reported activities of the clinics include:

Preparing 60 midwives.

Classes for 1,100 mothers.

Evaluating Mayan medicine (principally with midwives).

Meetings of coordination with the Public Health Ministry of Guatemala and other health organizations, and

Visiting and supporting the sick.

Throughout the year, 564 children were vaccinated, 3,559 people received various consultations and health care, and 1,201 pregnant women received maternity care. On-site pharmacies at each clinic dispense medication free or at affordable prices.

Financially, Spokane Diocese donors provided 54 percent of the income last year, with the rest coming from patients who were able to pay for a part of their care. Parishes who designated monies for the medical clinics were St. Mary, Spokane Valley; St. Mary of the Rosary, Chewelah; and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane. The remainder of the donations came from the Family to Family Program (Spokane), individuals, and two parishes – Assumption, Spokane, and St. Mary’s Presentation, Deer Park – who donated with “unrestricted funds.”

Expenditures for the medical clinic helped cover salaries of Dr. José Miguel Vasquez and the clinic staff, medicines and medical supplies, electricity, utilities, and an extraordinary expense of a roof replacement.

The first medical clinic was begun in Novillero in 1964, and originally was staffed by the Daughters of Mary Health of the Sick, New York. In 1969, clinics were added in Nahualá and Ixtahuacán with support from the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, St. Patrick Parish in Walla Walla, and St. Patrick Parish in Pasco. In 1971, the Sisters of Charity of New York took over the health programs and medical clinics, with Sisters Immaculata and Marie beginning their ministry. The clinic in New Ixtahuacán was added in 2001. Dr. José Miguel Vasquez became the first native medical doctor at the clinics in 1985. He attended Colegio Nahualá with a scholarship from Our Lady of Fatima Church in Spokane. He continues to be very dedicated to serving his people.

Our medical clinics differ from other medical services available because they include prayer, free and/or reduced cost of medicines and health care, free classes (on health care, parenting, and nutrition), and family and community support at essential times.

The Sisters concluded their report with: “Our constant prayer and gratitude go out to all of our benefactors … who helped us meet the deficit throughout the year.”

Donations to the medical clinics are appreciated and needed and can be sent to: Guatemala Mission, P.O. Box 1453, Spokane, Wa. 99210-1453.)

(Donna Connell is chair of the Guatemala Commission.)

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