The Truth of the Matter
October 14th, 2021 by Rachel Somers
In my first post I mentioned that the clinic provides care regardless of someone’s ability to pay. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But it has a much greater impact than you might think.
Healthcare in Honduras isn’t like it is in the States. No surprise there, I’m sure. But in Honduras there aren’t EMTALA laws protecting patients. EMTALA is what ensures that everyone gets emergency treatment regardless of insurance or lack thereof. Where I work (and I imagine it’s the same elsewhere), the staff at registration aren’t even allowed to ask for insurance or payment information until the patient has been seen by a provider.
In Honduras, you pay up front. I’ve heard it’s the same in other countries, so this won’t be a surprise to some of you. But it still takes a bit of work to wrap my mind around the concept, so I figured it would be worth explaining a bit. Because not only do you have to pay up front, you often have to go and buy your own supplies. Imagine going to the emergency room or urgent care because you’d cut yourself and needed stitches. You go in, the doctor takes a look at it, and then says, “I’ll need gauze, sutures, sterile saline, gloves and needles. Here’s the list.” Now you or a family member has to go to the nearest pharmacy and buy the supplies, bring them back, and then you’ll get treated. Or imagine that you’re going there because you’re vomiting and dehydrated, but they don’t have the medication or the syringe to draw it up in. So a trip to the pharmacy again to get what they need to treat you, and back you go. I don’t want to think about what happens if you are having a heart attack or stroke or were in a bad accident…
One of the nurses at the clinic used to work at the public hospital and told me a bit about it. She said the hospital would have supplies delivered once every 2 weeks, but it was never enough, so they’d always run out of things. She took to buying certain supplies and keeping them in her bag so she could at least treat her patients. It made me think of a friend of mine who’s a music teacher. She’s put a lot of her own money towards her classroom and supplies, more than she’ll ever really get reimbursed for. Imagine if nurses had to do the same? In places like Honduras, that could be true.
So imagine that instead, you go to Clinica Esperanza (“esperanza” is Spanish for “hope,” by the way). You are seen by the doctor, and if you need treatment there, you get it. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the clinic has supplies, so you don’t have to go out and buy anything first. And when it’s all over, you can leave with a month’s supply of your prescriptions. If you can pay, you pay, and if you can’t, you’ll still be taken care of.